A woman who crashed her car while heavily medicated has filed a medical negligence claim against the hospital and psychiatrist involved in her care.
The plaintiff was admitted to hospital in late 2011 because of suicidal tendencies and remained under the care of medical practitioners for nearly three weeks while she was monitored and treated.
However, according to the woman’s claim, she was given permission to drive home despite showing obvious signs of drowsiness both in the days leading up to her release and when leaving the hospital.
The plaintiff suffered injuries to her lower back, left knee, left shoulder and right knee during the accident, as well as damage to her teeth.
Medical negligence plaintiffs must show that professionals failed in their duty of care to patients and that this breach led to the injuries for which they are claiming.
The standard of care must fall significantly below the level that peers within the medical industry would expect.
On this occasion, the woman claimed her psychiatrist and hospital nurses allowed her to get behind the wheel of her vehicle even when she questioned her own ability to drive.
Her psychiatrist also allegedly failed to visit her on the day of her release or enquire about her mental or physical health in the lead-up to discharge. This was despite the patient showing extreme tiredness and often falling asleep for extended periods at atypical hours during the day.
District Court Judge David Wilson ruled that both the hospital and the psychiatrist – the first and second defendants respectively – were negligent in allowing the plaintiff to drive home.
Judge Wilson was especially critical of the psychiatrist, who he argued tried to absolve herself of responsibility for what happened to the patient upon discharge.
“I find that to leave it up to a psychiatric patient who suffered from pain, fatigue and sedation, which would vary from day to day, to decide whether she was fit to drive at the time of discharge is a complete abrogation of the psychiatrist’s duty of care,” he stated.
“To say that she did not turn her mind to how the plaintiff would get home upon discharge represents an unacceptable failure to satisfy her most basic professional obligations to the plaintiff. I find that such conduct would not be regarded as acceptable by peer professionals.”
The judge awarded the woman $96,500 in damages, which comprised a $32,167 payment from the hospital and a sum of $64,333 due to the psychiatrist’s negligence.
Approximately two-thirds of the compensation was for non-economic losses, which includes pain and suffering, while the remaining one-third was awarded to cover future lost income and treatment costs.
Would you like to pursue a medical negligence claim? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers.