When a person becomes a victim of medical negligence it can have a devastating impact on their well-being and can even have a flow-on effect on the individual’s family, friends and quality of life.
Despite heavy regulations and stringent training, health practitioners sometimes make mistakes, but it doesn’t end there and those who have been affected do have options.
What is medical negligence?
Medical negligence occurs when a patient suffers an injury due to a health practitioner’s failure to take reasonable care while treating them.
Medical negligence includes:
- mistakes made during surgery which were caused by the surgeon, anesthesiologist or another healthcare provider that could have been avoided;
- misdiagnosis or delayed/missed diagnosis - when the healthcare provider has failed to diagnose an illness or has diagnosed the illness only after the point it has become untreatable; and
- informed consent - when the healthcare provider has not given the patient adequate information about their treatment, to allow that treatment to go ahead.
What can I do if I have suffered an injury as a result of medical negligence?
Victims of medical negligence have multiple options available to them to seek redress. Depending on the type of injury, its severity and the impact it has on your quality of life and your ability to earn income, your options may range from making a complaint to accessing benefits through your Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Insurance.
Can I make a complaint about poor medical treatment?
It is possible to make a complaint directly to the medical practice or hospital where you received the treatment for matters such as reimbursements or refunds, seeking an apology or explanation or for access to your medical records.
To escalate the matter, you may wish to raise a complaint with the state regulator. In Queensland, this is the Office of the Health Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is able to review complaints pertaining to a range of different issues and they may also pass on the complaint to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) if further consideration is required.
A complaint may be made to AHPRA (which can take action against negligent health practitioners) if you are of the belief that the practitioner’s conduct may be a risk to the public in general, they aren’t practising in a way that is safe or you believe their ability to make safe judgments about the way they treat their patients has diminished.
Can I seek compensation for medical negligence?
If you have suffered loss as a result of the medical negligence, such as loss of income, loss of quality of life or expenses due to treatment or rehabilitation related to the injury, you may be able to pursue a claim for compensation for the pain and suffering you have endured as well as expenses already incurred and those that may come up in the future.
For a claim for compensation to be successful, you will need to prove that the health professional breached their duty of care to a level that was negligent or fell below a reasonable standard of care.
If that can be proved, you will need to demonstrate that the health practitioner’s negligence or low standard of care led to your injury and loss. Evidence from an expert witness will be required to support your claim.
Are there time limits to bringing a claim for compensation in medical negligence claims?
Yes. It is always prudent to act as quickly as possible if you are seeking compensation for medical negligence. This is so any evidence remains intact, and your recollection of the event is fresh and clear. You should aim to lodge a complaint within two years from the date the negligence occurred and commencing the claim well before this deadline will afford you enough time to prepare a strong case.
A personal injury lawyer is best placed to help you prepare your case and manage the strict timelines. If you are a victim of medical negligence and want to pursue a claim for compensation contact our experienced lawyers who can assist.