The additional impact of knowing that your loved one’s death was caused by the errors of a healthcare professional is often deeply traumatic, at an already distressing time.
We have an established track record of successfully recovering compensation and recognition for medical errors that result in the tragic loss of a loved one. We appreciate the worry that families face when seeking justice for the loss of a family member in such upsetting and trying circumstances.
If you believe that you may have a claim, then contact our medical negligence team who will advise you about the best way forward.
What types of claims are covered under death by medical negligence?
You may be concerned that a loved one has died because there has been an error in their care. If someone you know has died due to medical negligence, you can seek compensation for their injuries and death. But, first, it might help to have an idea of what types of situations might be covered in a claim for medical negligence resulting in death.
Some examples of the types of claims we see are:
- If a patient had worrying symptoms that weren’t dealt with quickly by a GP
- Mistakes made during an operation that made the patient’s condition worse
- The hospital’s Accident and Emergency department failed to identify a serious condition
- A patient was given insufficient supervision and care despite being a mental health patient at risk of suicide
- A patient didn’t receive essential medication or nursing care
What can you claim for?
A claim for compensation for the death of a loved one usually contains several elements which reflect not only the suffering of the person who has died, but the impact their loss has had on their family:
- For the pain, suffering and loss of amenity of the deceased before their death. This is brought on behalf of their estate.
- For the loss of love and affection of a family member
- A fixed sum for ‘bereavement’
- For loss of financial dependency
- For funeral expenses and any other financial losses
Claim brought on behalf of the estate
When someone dies due to medical negligence, the right to seek compensation for their injuries and death remain after they have died. This part of the claim is brought on their behalf after their death.
The people who benefit under the person’s will (or intestacy if they died without a will) are able to seek compensation for their pain and suffering leading up to their death and any other losses they suffered personally as a result of their treatment.
The property and affairs of a deceased person are known as their estate and the claim is said to be brought ‘on behalf of the estate’.
If the deceased person prepared a will, those named as executors are appointed to be responsible for the management of the estate.
The executor is the person who will need to bring the claim for compensation. They will need to apply for a grant of probate, which means they will be recognised as having official permission to act on behalf of the estate of the deceased.
If a will wasn’t prepared, then a family member can apply for grant to become an administrator of the estate. The person applying will be given a ‘Letters of Administration’, which is an official document recognising that person as an administrator. The executor or administrator can then bring a claim on behalf of the estate.
If you have lost a loved one and are not sure what to do then you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our solicitors can help you make a claim and help you get advice about the best way to deal with the deceased person’s affairs.
How much compensation for medical negligence resulting in death?
A claim for compensation for the injuries suffered by the deceased person before they died is known as a claim for general damages.
The appropriate amount of general damages is assessed based on the length and severity of their pain and suffering, and for the things the deceased was unable to do (known as ‘loss of amenity’). Compensation for their death itself is considered separately.
Because of all these factors, the amount of compensation awarded for claims regarding death due to medical negligence will vary with each individual case. That said, we always strive to obtain the best possible financial outcome for the family.
We also appreciate the importance of getting answers for you and of receiving an acknowledgement of the mistakes made and the impact of your loss.
Claim for members of the family
Family members can bring a claim for their own losses arising out of the death of their loved one. They have a recognised legal right to seek compensation as there was a financial dependency and relationship with the deceased.
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 contains a list of categories setting out who may be eligible to make a dependency claim. They are:
- Spouses, civil partner or former spouses or civil partners of the deceased
- Couples who had been living together in the same household for at least 2 years before the deceased passed away
- Any parent of the deceased or any person the deceased treated as a parent (such as a step-parent)
- Any child or descendant of the deceased
- Where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership, any person the deceased treated as a child or parent in relation to that marriage or civil partnership (such as a step-child)
- Siblings, aunts or uncles of the deceased
Some family members can recover a fixed amount statutory ‘bereavement award’. This can be recovered where it was your spouse or civil partner who has died, a cohabiting partner of at least 2 years, or if it was your child and they were under 18 at the time. For deaths occurring after 1st May 2020 this amount is set at £15,120. For families who had already lost a loved one before this date, the award is set at £12,980.
Family members can seek compensation for funeral expenses and loss of income into the family.
The loss of additional benefits such as pensions can also be claimed, as can a sum for the loss of their help around the house, for example doing home improvements and gardening.
You are also able to claim an extra sum for their loss of love and affection, taking into account their relationship to you.
Although a financial award can only go so far in compensating for the loss of a loved one, we will work to ensure that you and your family are provided with financial security.
We will look to support you all through the difficult process of learning more about what has happened and also seek an apology where possible for the mistakes made.
The death of a loved one is an unavoidable but tragic part of life and is obviously distressing. The process of bringing a claim for compensation and talking about what happened can be difficult for many people.
We have decades of experience in helping grieving families to bring a claim and will provide a service that is personal to you and tailored to your needs.
We can also help you to identify and use the most appropriate support services provided by charities and other organisations to assist you in other ways.
If you have suffered a bereavement, you may wish to contact the following:
- Cruse Bereavement Care
- SANDS (this is a charity aimed at supporting families who have lost a baby)
- National Bereavement Partnership
- At a Loss
- The Loss Foundation (bereavement support for loss to Cancer or Covid-19)
If you are concerned that a loved one received negligent treatment and this contributed to their death, please contact our medical negligence team on 0203 7331 147 for a no-obligation chat to discuss your concerns. Alternatively, complete our online medical negligence enquiry form, and one of our specialist solicitors will be in touch with you.