What is Medical Negligence and do I have a claim?
As Nigerians, we have all heard the story of friends or family members who have gone into the hospital for routine procedures or for minor medical conditions, and the next you hear is that they have sadly passed away at the hospital.
Now we all know about the issues which plague the health sector in Nigeria – underfunded and under-staffed hospitals, unpaid doctors, intermittent power supply…the list is probably endless. Those are facts which any honest Nigerian would agree are true, the vast majority of our hospitals face these issues.
However, several of the cases we hear about are cases where the problem is due to negligence or what you could call the human factor.
It is for those cases where issues are caused by the negligence or lack of proper care by the hospitals, and their medical staff that we have written this article.
Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers treat millions of Nigerians every day, either privately or in the public hospitals. Unfortunately, when you or a loved one has suffered a complication due to medical error, the situation can turn bad pretty quickly.
If you have received poor or substandard treatment from a doctor, nurse, dentist, or any medical professional, then this article is for you. Examples of some scenarios that we have unfortunately heard about is when people go into the hospital and are misdiagnosed, or when they are diagnosed properly but given the wrong medication, or when they are operated on and foreign objects are left in the body of patient…the list is endless.When this occurs, then you should know that you can sue the hospital or medical professional for negligence and claim compensation.
If you decide to do this, then we understand that it can be an emotional and stressful process, especially when the treatment you are suing the medical professional about is one which has led to the death of the person. This is why you should get a lawyer involved, they have the training and the skills to assist you in getting the proper compensation you deserve (if the medical professional has indeed been at fault and was negligent).
Who can sue and when can you sue?
Generally, only the person who has been a victim of the medical error can sue, however the situation is different if the patient has passed away or the patient is a child. If the patient has passed away, then the next of kin of the patient e.g. husband, wife, parents, children etc can sue for compensation. If a child, it will be the parent or the legal guardian of the child.
Doctors, nurses, dentists, opticians and all other medical professionals owe what is legally known as a duty of care towards their patients. When this duty is breached and the patient suffers some damage then it gives rise to a potential claim for compensation.
It is important to note at this point however, that the law does not require the medical professionals to be perfect every time they carry out their job, 100% perfection is not humanly possible. What the law requires is that the medical professional must exercise a reasonable standard of care from them. So, if a doctor, nurse or other health professional treats you with reasonable care then you will probably not have a claim for compensation. If the treatment you received was not of a reasonable standard and this caused your injury, then you may have a claim.
Every case is individual with varying factors to be taken into account, so if you think you may have a claim then it is very important that you speak to a lawyer and they will be able to consider the law and advise you accordingly.
As mentioned above, you can sue when there has been an act of medical negligence, the critical thing though is that if you are suing for compensation, the claimant (the person suing) must have suffered some harm as a result of the negligence of the act being complained about. For instance, you could sue a doctor for negligence in misdiagnosing an illness, however if for instance a person is misdiagnosed for illness A, when he has illness B, and then prescribed medication which he takes, and the medication cures illness B, he or she will be unable to sue for negligence in the misdiagnosis because he has not really suffered any actual damage from the misdiagnosis (although the person could report the doctor to its regulatory body).
How long do you have to make a claim and how much compensation can you receive?
You have a period of three years to make a claim for compensation and this time period runs from the date when you first received the negligent treatment complained of or the date on which you first discovered that the treatment was negligent.
As each case is individual, the amount of compensation awarded will vary from claim to claim. However, there are certain things the court will consider when deciding the amount of compensation a claimant would be entitled to, this includes factors such as a person’s age, severity of injury, employment status and associated losses caused as a result of the treatment etc.
Have you or someone you know been a victim of medical negligence in Nigeria, and you are wondering whether you have sufficient grounds to sue the hospital and doctors? If yes, then you should speak to a lawyer to review your case.
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We hope you have found this information helpful. Please note that this information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No lawyer-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. This answer is not intended to substitute for the advice of a qualified lawyer. If you require legal advice, please consult with a qualified lawyer.