The Medical Protection Society in Ireland has released a new set of proposals with the aim of reducing the cost of making a medical negligence claim in Ireland by changing existing protocol.
The Medical Protection Society is a non-profit organisation which seeks to provide legal assistance to those working in the medical sector. Recently, it has brought forward proposals for “pre-trial protocols” which aim to lower the costs of hospital negligence claims for all those involved. Currently, bringing legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE) incurs very high costs, a problem that the Medical Protection Society is keen to fix.
The primary goal of the new set of proposals is to make communication between the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s legal teams easier by promoting openness and transparency on both sides. Furthermore, they want to provide an opportunity for each negligence claim made against the hospital to be investigated before litigation is even necessary, with a chance that the claim may even be revoked or resolved.
It is hoped that adversarial processes will be left out due to the improved dialogue between sides, which in turn should lower the costs of medical negligence claims in hospitals across Ireland. In both England and Wales, solicitors suffer financial penalties if they go straight to the litigation procedure without first attempting some sort of mediation. If the MPS is successful, such penalties would not be required.
The MPS’s Director of Claims-Emma Hallinan-has suggested that the protocol should first be trialled voluntarily before any legislation is introduced. She states: “We recognise the important role that the MPS must play, and have committed to trialling procedural reform before it is introduced in statute. We are in the process of writing to plaintiff lawyers with large medical negligence practices to request that they work with us to pilot this.”
A tariff of general damages would be introduced if the MPS is successful. This is comparable to the Judicial College’s “Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases” in the UK. This would act as a scale of compensation awards for specific physical injuries caused by hospital negligence, covering a wide range of common injuries from dental damage to severe brain trauma.
Other general damages-such as loss of amenity and emotional trauma-as well as special damages to replace lost income and expenses would still require negotiation between parties to resolve. Medical and legal experts who have read the MPS proposals thus far have widely commended them, stating that they are heading in the right direction to lower the costs of making such hospital negligence claims in Ireland.