QLD LAW UNDER ATTACK FOLLOWING ALLEGED BOTCHED OPERATION
Written on the 8 May 2014
A ROCKHAMPTON Hospital patient who lost a testicle in an allegedly botched operation could receive less than $3000 in compensation, shining a light on medical negligence law.
Bennett & Philp compensation lawyer Mark O’Connor says those laws, combined with state law that prevents many patients from claiming legal costs in medical negligence actions and a tough attitude by medical insurers, make most medical negligence claims uneconomical to pursue.O’Connor says as a result, many medical negligence cases never get to court but are ‘brushed under the carpet’.
“The Queensland government’s laws effectively protect negligent doctors against compensation actions,” he says.O’Connor says law changes brought into effect in 2002 and 2003 significantly reduce payment for pain and suffering and permanent impairment and drastically reduce the claimable amount.
“The Civil Liability Act and especially the Civil Liability Regulation re-shaped the medical negligence landscape in a way that protects negligent doctors. The injury scale in the Regulation imposes a dollar value on every body part,” he says.“The value assigned to a kidney is between $16,740 and $30,780 depending on a range of factors. A testicle is valued at between $2720 and $14,850.
“Given these limits a patient could not claim legal costs in an action and medical insurers fight hard to dissuade claims. In many cases it’s just not economic for a patient to pursue an action.”Patients may have to carry the cost of expert medical reports which could run into the thousands of dollars per report.
“Medical insurers are very difficult people to deal with. In our practice we get about two calls a day from patients who believe they have been victims of medical negligence. Unless claimants have a large claim for loss of income and ongoing expenses their claims will often not get to first base.“Because of the way the law is structured now, victims often get peanuts and these guys get away with it. It’s disgraceful. Valid claims for pensioners will often not be pursued as they have not lost income or earning capacity which is a major component of most viable compensation cases.
“We need an urgent overhaul of the damage assessments system and enable innocent victims to seek redress against negligent doctors.”