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If you’ve lost a loved one it will undoubtedly be a very distressing time for you and your family. This is especially the case if you believe the death occurred because of substandard medical care.

Our experienced team will investigate the treatment afforded to your loved one. We will guide you through the process, pursuing your claim efficiently and with tact and understanding.

We have a specialist team dealing with claims where there has been a death following medical treatment. Our experience ensures that we can obtain answers on your behalf and we will do our utmost to achieve a settlement to compensate you for the financial losses suffered as a result of the death.

If an inquest is being held into the death then please see our dedicated inquests page for more information.

When can you make a fatal claim?

A fatal claim can be brought when someone has died as a result of negligence. This could be as a result of any substandard treatment, but examples of cases we see include:

  • a failure to recognise and treat sepsis
  • a delay in the diagnosis of cancer
  • a failure to recognise heart abnormalities resulting in heart failure
  • failure to diagnose and treat an aortic aneurysm resulting in rupture
  • delay in treating pressure sore/skin ulcers resulting in conditions such as osteomyelitis
  • bowel volvulus (small or large bowel)
  • complications following surgery, such as weight loss procedures

These are just a few examples of the kinds of cases our team deals with. Please contact us using the above form if you think the death of your loved one was related to their medical treatment in any way.

In any case, it will need to be established that:

  • there was a duty of care owed to the deceased
  • there was a breach of this duty of care
  • the breach of duty caused or contributed to the deceased’s death
  • there was a loss resulting from the death

You can find about more about the relevant law in our printable fatal claims factsheet here.

Who can bring a fatal claim?

If the person who died has left a Will, the Executor will have the right to pursue a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate. It may be necessary to obtain a Grant of Probate if the claim progresses, however we will advise you on this on an individual basis.

If no Will has been made, and the deceased died intestate, Letters of Administration will need to be obtained and a claim can be advanced by the person named in those Letters of Administration. We will provide advice on when to obtain either a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration and whether these will be necessary in your case.

Generally speaking, only the Executor or Administrator can bring a fatal claim. The Executors, or individual named in the Letters of Administration, can bring a claim on behalf of someone who was financially dependent on the deceased. However, this applies to only a limited number of people as set down in legal statute.

If they can prove financial loss as a result of the death, those who may be entitled to bring a claim include:

  • the wife or husband of the deceased, including former wives or husbands
  • the civil partner of the deceased, or former civil partner
  • anyone living with the deceased, who had been living with them for at least two years before the date of death
  • the deceased’s parent, child, brother, sister, uncle or aunt

The Executors, or individual named in the Letters of Administration, can also bring a claim in relation to a bereavement payment.  Unfortunately, this is only available to:

  • a surviving wife, husband or civil partner of the deceased
  • Where the deceased was a child (who was not married/in a civil partnership), both parents if they were “legitimate” or just the mother if they were “illegitimate”

What compensation might you receive for a fatal claim?

Although no compensation can make up for the death of a loved one, understanding exactly what happened can be a great comfort. We will do our utmost to explore what went wrong.

As with any compensation claim, how much you receive for a fatal claim depends entirely on your specific circumstances. However, to give you a guide, the following areas may be covered by your damages:

  1. Damages for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity on behalf of the deceased
    This includes compensation for pain the deceased suffered prior to their death, as a result of negligence.
  2. Losses encountered by the deceased prior to death
    Any loss of earnings suffered as a result of the negligence, for example when there is a delay in diagnosis cancer, they may not be able to work due to the intensive treatment programme and side effects suffered.
  3. Loss of financial/care dependency
    A claim for loss of financial dependency may be sought where there is a shortfall in the amount of money brought into the household as a result of the death. This could include loss of earnings, loss of employment benefits and any pension losses. For example, if the Deceased was the main carer for a child, this care now has to be provided by a paid nanny or another family relative.
  4. Statutory bereavement award
    Awarded to a husband/wife or civil partner or where the deceased was a child (who was not married/in a civil partnership), both parents if they were “legitimate” or just the mother if they were “illegitimate”. The amount is set down in statute, and is currently at £12,980 if the death occurred after 1 April 2013.
  5. Funeral expenses
    Any reasonable costs for a funeral can be claimed, together with any reasonable expenses such as the headstone and the cost of a wake.

The law provides financial compensation as the only remedy for clinical negligence, such as that which has resulted in a fatal claim. However, you may be able to obtain an apology from the hospital or individual who caused the death.

Are there any time limits to bringing a fatal claim?

If you want to make a claim for the death of a loved one, you will need to formally commence the claim within three years of the date of death. There are exceptions though, so it’s worth discussing your situation with us as soon as you feel ready and able.

A failure to comply with the appropriate limitation deadline can mean that you are prevented from bringing a claim, so it is important to seek advice as soon as possible.

“I would like to thank you so much for all your efforts in dealing with this matter and for successfully obtaining compensation, although no amount of money can replace the loss of my father”

Royds Withy King fatal claims client

Our team

Our dedicated fatal claim lawyers will guide you through the claims process, ensuring you are informed and in control at all times. Our team understand what a difficult time this is for you; we will advance your claim with efficiency and sensitivity.

We are experienced in acting in a wide range of cases where an individual has died as a result of substandard treatment. We can guide you through the process of making fatal claims for compensation, all the while focusing on getting the answers you need.

To find out more from our team about making a claim, take a look at our medical negligence guide here.

If you need further guidance on what to do following a death, please take a look at our guide for the bereaved here.

Recent cases

SB v Dorset County Hospitals

SB began experiencing severe abdominal pain and vomiting green and black fluid.  She attended hospital however discharged with no follow up. The following day she collapsed at home suffering a cardiac arrest and died shortly after.  Following an inquest it was found to have a para-umbilical hernia. As a result of excessive vomiting and retching she developed incarceration of her para-umbilical hernia which in turn led to intestinal obstruction, ischaemia and multi-organ failure.

CR v University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust

CR had previously had a Type A ascending aortic dissection which was repaired successfully. 2 years following, following a repeat of back pain and shortness of breathe, she attended hospital.  Following delays in assessment, CR  suffered a rupture of the Type B aortic dissection, cardiac arrest and died.

SP v Sunnyside Private Nursing Home (1) Frimley Health NHS Trust (2)

Owing to inaccurate and inadequate levels of PEG feed and fluid, SP suffered avoidable dehydration, inadequate nutrition, significant weight loss and renal impairment.  He contracted hospital acquired pneumonia and MRSA which resulted in his death.

KB v Bellevue Healthcare (1) South Tees NHS Trust (2)

KB was diagnosed at an early age with Parkinson’s.  As a result of substandard wound and skin management, she developed a grade 3 pressure sore.  This led to avoidable osteomyelitis, significant pain and a complete reduction in her quality of life prior to her death.

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