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Written on 29th July 2021 by

The sudden loss of a loved one can be a painful and traumatic experience, made worse by the financial worries that often arise from their death. At this emotionally difficult time, bereaved families often struggle to cope without the deceased spouse or parent’s income, or without the childcare, housework, driving or other ‘services’ that they provided.   

If you have lost someone and are worried that something went wrong in the healthcare or medical treatment that they received, you may be entitled to make a fatal injury medical negligence compensation claim.

What is a fatal injury claim?

A fatal injury claim is a claim for compensation which can be brought by specified eligible family members of someone who has died as a result of negligence. The negligent care may have occurred in the immediate period before the deceased’s death. Claims can also arise where the death was caused by negligence which took place months or years before.

Common examples of medical negligence fatal injury cases that we see include:

  • delayed diagnosis of cancer;
  • delayed diagnosis and failure to treat serious infection, such as sepsis, meningitis and TB;
  • maternal death as a result of childbirth;
  • delayed diagnosis and treatment of brain haemorrhage;
  • incorrect cardiac care;
  • complications as a result of surgical care.

Why should I make a claim?

Whilst bringing a claim for medical negligence cannot change what has happened or lessen the loss, it can give the deceased’s family an understanding of what happened and a sense of closure. Where liability (fault) is admitted, the healthcare provider may also apologise for their incorrect care and for any suffering it caused the deceased, which may help with the healing process.

However, in cases relating to the death of a parent, cohabitee or spouse, the main purpose of a fatal injury claim is to help the bereaved family cope financially by providing compensation for the deceased’s dependants.

Who can bring a claim?

There are limited categories of people who can make a negligence claim for compensation after a loved one’s death.

A claim can be brought by a “dependant”. This is someone who was dependent on the deceased’s income or ‘services’ (such as child care). In most cases, a dependant will be a child, spouse or parent. In some circumstances a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or cousin or any other person who was considered by the deceased as a child of the family, may also be entitled to bring a claim.  

If the deceased left a will, their executor can bring a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate and dependants. If court proceedings are needed to progress the claim, a ‘grant of probate’ will be needed. If there is no will, ‘letters of administration’ will need to be obtained to ensure that the correct person is able to bring the claim. In each case, our solicitors can advise the deceased’s family on the best person to make the claim and handle the necessary applications for letters of administration or probate.   

What compensation can be claimed in a fatal injury medical negligence claim?

Our specialist solicitors investigate each claim carefully to ensure that our client receives their full entitlement to compensation. The compensation that can be claimed depends on a number of factors, including the cause and duration of the deceased’s injury, their family circumstances and the financial consequences of their death.  Depending on these individual circumstances, one or more of the following losses may be claimed:

  • the pain, suffering and loss of amenity (disability) suffered by the deceased before their death;
  • the deceased’s financial losses before their death, such as loss of earnings suffered as result of the negligence, travel expenses to medical appointments, and costs of any care or treatment they required;
  • bereavement damages which are set by the law or a claim for the loss of intangible benefits of losing a parent or child;
  • reasonable funeral expenses;
  • loss of ‘services’ that the deceased would have provided, such as housework, childcare, gardening, or care to a disabled family member;
  • loss of financial dependency, where there is now a shortfall in the amount of money brought into the household as a result of the death.

What does a fatal medical negligence compensation claim involve?

You can read more about fatal medical negligence claims by reading this article by Tara Byrne, one of the solicitors in the medical negligence team, or on our main fatal injury medical negligence claims page here.

Are there any time limits for bringing a fatal injury medical negligence claim?

As with all medical negligence claims, there are time limits for bringing a fatal accident claim. The deadline (also known as the limitation period) usually expires three years after the injury or the date of death.  If you are concerned that you or someone you know, may have a claim, it is important to get in touch with our expert solicitors as soon as possible, as you may be barred by law from bringing a claim if the deadline has passed.

If you or a member of your family have suffered serious injury as a result of negligent medical care, and you would like to find out more about making a claim, you can talk to one of our specialist solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us by email at mednegclaims@boyesturner.com.