Irritable bowel syndrome claims

Updated: October 8, 2018

Introduction

Around one in five adults in the UK develops the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) at some stage in their life. Around twice as many women are affected as men.

Symptoms can range from mild and manageable to debilitating, and calculations for injury compensation will reflect the impact IBS has had on a specific individual's life.

The condition can develop as a 'secondary injury' following food poisoning on holiday, or as a side-effect of medication.

In some cases, proving that the syndrome was caused by the negligence of another party can be a challenge. A specialist solicitor will assist with gathering the necessary medical reports and other evidence to support your claim.

Doctor discharging patient
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Identifying the condition

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder of the gut. It is classified as a "functional" disorder. This means that the function of the gut is disrupted, even though all parts of the gut and bowel look normal.

The four key symptoms of IBS are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea

IBS is a syndrome rather than a disease. As such, it may come and go at intervals, causing pain and discomfort over a long period.

The long-term prognosis, and associated treatment and care costs, of the condition should be accounted for when making a claim.

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Common IBS injury claims

IBS may occur whenever there is a change in the activity of the gut. The precise cause is not known. However, one or more of the following factors may play a part:

  • Infection and bacteria in the gut. About one in six cases of IBS appear to follow a bout of food poisoning including campylobacter, e-coli, salmonella and cryptosporidium.
  • Stress and emotional upset, such as post-accident anxiety. The onset of symptoms coincides with a stressful life event in about half of all IBS cases.
  • Treatment for other conditions of the gut, including side-effects of prescription medication

When calculating damages for irritable bowel syndrome, the Courts do not take into account the nature of the incident that caused the changes to the gut. Compensation awards are calculated solely by reference to the severity of the illness and the impact it has on the Claimant's life.

However, for the purposes of bringing a compensation claim, the cause of the accident does matter. The injury lawyer must prove that the Defendant negligently caused the accident or food poisoning, and that the IBS arose as a result.

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Diagnosis and treatment

There is no single test for IBS. Diagnosis usually takes place at hospital and involves a process of ruling out other potential gut conditions. Doctors might perform a variety of tests including colonoscopy, abdominal CT scans and blood tests.

IBS is a long-term condition. The syndrome may takes years to resolve itself, or it may never resolve. Patients may gain relief by making changes to their diet and lifestyle, including eliminating stressors and food intolerances.

As an initial step, the injury lawyer will arrange for an independent gut specialist to perform a medical examination. The doctor will examine the Claimant's medical records, assess their symptoms and give an estimate of the likely duration of the IBS. The medical report will form the basis of the irritable bowel syndrome compensation claim.

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Do I have an irritable bowel syndrome claim?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome often follows a bout of food poisoning on holiday. A claim for compensation may be made against a tour operator if:

  • The holiday was purchased as part of a package
  • The food poisoning that caused the illness was contracted as part of the package holiday, for example, from food prepared by the hotel, airline or cruise ship
  • The food poisoning caused or aggravated the IBS.

Where food poisoning originates from a restaurant, pop up restaurant or catering facility in the UK, the people or organisation responsible for the food provision may be held liable. The injury lawyer will gather evidence to show that the food providers failed to meet basic hygiene standards, and that the IBS arose as a result of their negligence.

It is not necessary to have tested positive for food poisoning to make an IBS claim. The injury lawyer will instruct a doctor who can advise what bacteria they think caused the illness and whether that bug was the cause of the Claimant's IBS.

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Developing irritable bowel syndrome after medical treatment

Occasionally, IBS may arise as a result of negligent medical treatment. Clinical negligence claims often involve:

  • Negligent treatment during colonoscopy or ERCP procedures
  • Delay in diagnosing the condition
  • Side effects following the prescription of medication for other diseases
  • Surgical error.

Medical negligence is a complex area of personal injury law. For a claim to succeed, the injury lawyer must prove, on a balance of probabilities (more than a 50% likelihood), that

  • The doctor's actions or omissions were negligent, that is, no other doctor would have made the medical error; and
  • The negligence caused or materially contributed to the IBS.

The fate of a claim typically turns on the evidence of eminent clinicians who will review the doctor's professional conduct. The injury lawyer will gather evidence from the responsible health trust or GP practice to build the strongest case possible and pursue the maximum compensation settlement.

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How much compensation can I claim for irritable bowel syndrome?

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Compensation awards for personal injury claims are made up of:

  • General damages which compensate the Claimant for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity their condition has caused; and
  • Special damages which cover the Claimant's out-of-pocket expenses, such as loss of earnings, medical costs and travel costs.

General damages are established by the Judicial College and published in their guidelines for personal injury awards. The guidelines set out financial brackets for gastrointestinal illnesses by reference their severity, for example, the frequency of the symptoms and their likely duration.

Under the guidelines, an award for IBS usually will range between £3,000 and £35,000.

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How does No Win, No Fee work for IBS claims?

A No Win, No Fee claim is begun after a Claimant agrees, with a injury lawyer, a Conditional Fee Agreement (also known as a CFA).

Your CFA sets out a contract between the solicitor and you.

The agreement explains the work executed by the solicitor and, most significantly, a "success fee". This success fee is the amount that will be taken from your damages if they win your case.

You will have total peace of mind with the knowledge that there will be nothing to pay at the outset and you will never be out of pocket. You have no hidden charges when working with a Quittance solicitor.

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Meet the QLS team

Quittance Legal Services' nationwide network of solicitors handle all types of personal injury claims and have a wealth of experience in fast track, complex and serious injury claims. Our lawyers are chosen on the basis of their track record in recovering compensation and their level of experience.

To meet more of our team, click here.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Emma Bell Employers and Public Liability Panel Solicitor
Shahida Chaudery Complex Injury Claims Panel Solicitor
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

About the author

Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.

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