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Fatal Injuries

Your guide to claiming compensation for a fatal injury caused by medical negligence

Your Legal Friend client Mr Williams

Your Legal Friend have been a huge help throughout this whole process and I can’t thank them enough. The team showed real compassion and sensitivity and I would highly recommend them.

Mr Williams
Betws-Y-Coed

Fatal injury compensation claims

The loss of a loved one is always heart-breaking, but feeling or knowing that their death could have been prevented must cause unimaginable pain for those left behind. Unfortunately, this is often the case in circumstances where medical negligence has led to the death of a patient.

In cases where poor medical treatment is suspected as a contributing factor in a fatal injury, the first stage is usually an Inquest. Here, the Coroner will conduct an investigation and may require the medical team who treated the deceased to give evidence under cross-examination. Members of the deceased’s family will also have the opportunity to ask questions at the Inquest, either directly or through a lawyer, which can often provide them with some much-needed answers. If the Inquest suggests that medical negligence did occur, a claim can then be pursued. It is possible for the deceased’s family to claim financial compensation for the loss of their loved one if they were dependent upon him or her as well as compensation for the suffering of the patient themselves before their death. Certain family members can also claim a bereavement award.

If you have lost a loved one as a result of medical negligence, it’s time to talk to Your Legal Friend. We have years of experience working on medical negligence cases, many of which have arisen from the death of a patient. From a legal point of view, we know how complicated these cases can be. We are committed to guiding you through every step of the process and will ensure that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by specialist solicitors, while working alongside medical experts to guarantee the best results for you.

We strongly believe in the value of meeting our clients face-to-face, so that we can make sure all of your individual needs are being met. Because of the personal nature of medical negligence cases, we are happy to visit clients at home when appropriate. That way, you can discuss your claim in the privacy and safety of familiar surroundings, with the support of friends and family. Your Legal Friend will do whatever it takes to make the process of claiming as easy as possible. With no upfront fees or payments necessary get in touch today to find out more.

What is a fatal injury?

‘Fatal injury’ is the term used to describe any injury sustained by the victim that results in death. When a fatal injury is caused by medical negligence, there are a number of ways that the injury could have been caused.

This is sometimes referred to as a ‘medical accident’ or a ‘patient safety incident’.

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Our expert team will call you...

Our medical negligence team has years of experience working on a wide variety of medical malpractice cases so we understand just how difficult a decision it can be to bring a medical negligence case.

Our Fatal Injuries expert team. We deal with medical negligence claims arising from Fatal Injuries.

That’s why we are committed to guiding you through every step of the process. We ensure that your claim is handled carefully and professionally by our specialist solicitors, while working alongside medical experts, to guarantee the best results for you.

Our medical negligence team is headed by Laura Morgan who has a wealth of experience in leading complicated, high-value medical negligence cases.

Laura is recognised within the legal profession as a leader in the field of medical negligence and serious injury compensation.  Laura has acted in a wide range of cases over her 17 years of practice and has particular expertise in acting for children who have suffered brain injury due to mismanaged birth or surgical errors, and in managing claims that have resulted in the death of a loved one. Laura has achieved a number of large settlements including £5.4 million for a 7 year old and £4 million for an 11 year old child.

Laura’s expertise and dedication to her clients is recognised in the Chambers guide to the Legal Profession in which she was praised for the efficiency of her approach to case handling and described as “tenacious and detail-oriented”.

Laura has been a member of the Law Society Clinical Negligence Panel since 2005 and accredited as a Senior Litigator in the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) since 2006.  Laura is also a member of the specialist lawyers panel for Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA), the UK’s leading charity committed to patient safety and justice.

Talk to us today

For an informal, confidential chat with one of our specialist medical negligence solicitors, call us now on 0151 550 5228(calls free from landlines and mobiles). Or just complete the 'Start a new claim’ option on the right and we'll call you straight back.

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Request a callback that suits you

When would you like us to call?

The effects of medical negligence can be devastating for the individual and their families, so securing appropriate compensation for them as quickly as possible is our top priority.

Laura Morgan

Director of Medical Negligence

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  For a confidential chat, call one of our experts today 0151 550 5228

10 simple steps to claim

Step
1
Obtaining your medical records
Step
2
Providing your statement of what happened
Step
3
Minimising your loss
Step
4
Establishing that a breach of duty occurred
Step
5
Estabilishing the effect of the breach of duty
Step
86
Preparing your case for CourtCalculating the value of your claim
Step
7
Proving your loss
Step
68
Calculating the value of your claimPreparing your case for Court
Step
9
Attending the trial in Court
Step
10
Awarding your compensation claim

Your questions... answered

What are the most common fatal injuries?

Some of the most frequently recorded fatal injuries are:

  • Misdiagnosis of serious conditions such as cancer or sepsis
  • Surgical negligence that causes fatal internal injuries or infection
  • Mistakes with medication that lead to overdose by incorrect dosage or administration method
  • Serious birth injuries that cause the death of the baby or mother

Can fatal injuries be caused by misdiagnosis?

Yes, fatal injuries can be caused by misdiagnosis.

Some of the most frequently recorded misdiagnoses are for conditions such as cancer, meningitis and diabetes. The main reason these conditions are commonly diagnosed incorrectly is that they have symptoms which can be mistaken for other – often less serious – conditions.

Can fatal injuries be caused by cancer?

Yes. In 2016 alone, cancer killed a total of 163,000 people in the UK.

According to Cancer Research UK statistics, a sizeable 38% of these cases were preventable. In many cases, cancer can be treated if it is diagnosed early and several types of the disease have a good prognosis. However, misdiagnosis or delays in treatment can be, and often are, catastrophic for patients.

What are the statistics on fatal injuries?

  • In 2015, it was revealed that around 12,000 avoidable hospital deaths are reported to NHS England every year.
  • According to official NHS data, an average of 1 in 20 hospital deaths is preventable.
  • In 2018, a study by universities in Manchester, Sheffield and York identified more than 230 million medication errors are made every year by the NHS. Over 22,300 of these cases are fatal.
  • In 2018, a Government-funded report revealed that a shocking 7 out of 10 stillbirths and neonatal deaths could be avoided if NHS maternity care was better.

Can a fatal injury be a criminal case?

Yes. Negligent medical professionals in the UK responsible for the death of a patient can be charged with a criminal offence called ‘manslaughter by gross negligence’. This is rare but when individuals are charged, 55% are convicted of the crime.

In the 2003 case of Dr Freda Mulhem, the doctor caused an 18-year-old leukaemia patient a fatal injury when he injected a chemotherapy drug into the spinal canal rather than intravenously. Mulhem was convicted of manslaughter, sentenced to eight months in prison and suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC).

In rare cases, negligent medical professionals have been convicted of more serious criminal charges such as ‘wounding with intent’. In 2017, Ian Paterson, a consultant breast surgeon, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of the charge brought against him. He was responsible for leaving hundreds of breast cancer patients in England disfigured with unnecessary, life-changing surgeries.

Do I have the right to make a claim?

There are several factors that will determine whether you are entitled to compensation if your relative suffered a fatal injury due to medical negligence:

  • Duty of care

The concept of a ‘duty of care’ is something that is outlined in the ‘Bolam test’ which is a guideline used to assess medical negligence under English law. You must be able to prove that the medical professional in question (usually a doctor or nurse) owed a duty of care to the patient.

  • Breach of duty

You must then be able to prove that a breach in that duty occurred and it was what ultimately led to an avoidable fatal injury.

  • Causation and financial loss

A claimant who is able to prove that a breach of duty occurred then has to establish ‘causation’. This means they must prove that the individual’s negligence either directly or significantly contributed to the eventual fatal injury. As well as the physical damage to the patient, you must prove the financial damage this has caused to yourself and any other dependents.

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Who can bring a fatal injuries claim?

A relative of the victim of a fatal injury could be entitled to compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 if they make a claim on their behalf. However, the relative must be a:

  • Husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased
  • Person who has lived or cohabited with the deceased for two continuous years
  • Parent, child, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased
  • Someone who was treated as a parent or child by the deceased

Also, there is a rule that states that the victim must have been able to make a claim themselves had they not died following the injury.

How do I access my deceased relative’s records?

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 gives you the right to see some of your deceased relative’s medical records – whether or not there were fatal injuries involved. On request, access is likely to be granted to the executor of the individual’s will or anyone with a potential claim.

The NHS has an online form which you will need to fill out in order to make a request.

There are only a few circumstances in which medical records can be refused, that is if it may cause physical or mental harm to an individual or that it would identify a third party.  In these situations that information would be removed and then the records would be sent to you.

A GP will keep your records for 8 years following a treatment you’ve received and a hospital Trust will keep them for over 10 years. You’re actually only entitled to your medical records after 1991, but usually, a Trust will send you all the records.

It usually takes about 40 working days to obtain your medical records.   It can be a little be longer, so don’t be disheartened if it takes a bit more time.

It is now free to access your own records and medical professionals have a legal requirement to allow you to see them. If it is for a deceased person or another living person, you may still have to pay a fee.

If you’ve already obtained your medical records and you think you’ve been a victim of medical negligence, you can send the records through to us and we will review them. If you haven’t obtained them, we can actually make that application on your behalf if we think you have a successful case.

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Is there a time limit on fatal injury claims?

Yes, there is usually a time limit of 3 years from the date of death.

There are some exceptions to this rule. The time limit could be extended if the dependent is under the age of 18 or they do not have the mental capacity to make a claim due to a disability.

How long will my claim take?

We can’t tell you exactly how long your fatal injuries claim will take to go through. The length of time it takes will depend on several factors including the strength of the evidence available and the willingness of the defendant to negotiate a reasonable settlement.

Sometimes, settlements are offered quickly and a claim can be settled within a few months. However, in extremely complex cases or, when the defendant denies liability, it could take several years to reach a settlement.

Will I need to go to court?

It is very unlikely that you will need to attend a court hearing for a fatal injury case.

Just 2% of claims brought against the NHS go to trial. Even in the rare situation that it does, it is most likely that only the defendant will be required to attend court.

How much compensation will I get?

If you decide to proceed with a fatal injury claim, we will calculate its value based on a range of factors such as financial damages and any future impact. Sometimes the financial damages caused to the claimant are more easily quantifiable than others, so how precise our calculation is will depend on the details of the case.

Some of the most frequently recorded fatal injuries are:

  • Misdiagnosis of serious conditions such as cancer or sepsis
  • Surgical negligence that causes fatal internal injuries or infection
  • Mistakes with medication that lead to overdose by incorrect dosage or administration method
  • Serious birth injuries that cause the death of the baby or mother

Yes, fatal injuries can be caused by misdiagnosis.

Some of the most frequently recorded misdiagnoses are for conditions such as cancer, meningitis and diabetes. The main reason these conditions are commonly diagnosed incorrectly is that they have symptoms which can be mistaken for other – often less serious – conditions.

Yes. In 2016 alone, cancer killed a total of 163,000 people in the UK.

According to Cancer Research UK statistics, a sizeable 38% of these cases were preventable. In many cases, cancer can be treated if it is diagnosed early and several types of the disease have a good prognosis. However, misdiagnosis or delays in treatment can be, and often are, catastrophic for patients.

  • In 2015, it was revealed that around 12,000 avoidable hospital deaths are reported to NHS England every year.
  • According to official NHS data, an average of 1 in 20 hospital deaths is preventable.
  • In 2018, a study by universities in Manchester, Sheffield and York identified more than 230 million medication errors are made every year by the NHS. Over 22,300 of these cases are fatal.
  • In 2018, a Government-funded report revealed that a shocking 7 out of 10 stillbirths and neonatal deaths could be avoided if NHS maternity care was better.

Yes. Negligent medical professionals in the UK responsible for the death of a patient can be charged with a criminal offence called ‘manslaughter by gross negligence’. This is rare but when individuals are charged, 55% are convicted of the crime.

In the 2003 case of Dr Freda Mulhem, the doctor caused an 18-year-old leukaemia patient a fatal injury when he injected a chemotherapy drug into the spinal canal rather than intravenously. Mulhem was convicted of manslaughter, sentenced to eight months in prison and suspended by the General Medical Council (GMC).

In rare cases, negligent medical professionals have been convicted of more serious criminal charges such as ‘wounding with intent’. In 2017, Ian Paterson, a consultant breast surgeon, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of the charge brought against him. He was responsible for leaving hundreds of breast cancer patients in England disfigured with unnecessary, life-changing surgeries.

There are several factors that will determine whether you are entitled to compensation if your relative suffered a fatal injury due to medical negligence:

  • Duty of care

The concept of a ‘duty of care’ is something that is outlined in the ‘Bolam test’ which is a guideline used to assess medical negligence under English law. You must be able to prove that the medical professional in question (usually a doctor or nurse) owed a duty of care to the patient.

  • Breach of duty

You must then be able to prove that a breach in that duty occurred and it was what ultimately led to an avoidable fatal injury.

  • Causation and financial loss

A claimant who is able to prove that a breach of duty occurred then has to establish ‘causation’. This means they must prove that the individual’s negligence either directly or significantly contributed to the eventual fatal injury. As well as the physical damage to the patient, you must prove the financial damage this has caused to yourself and any other dependents.

Read less

A relative of the victim of a fatal injury could be entitled to compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 if they make a claim on their behalf. However, the relative must be a:

  • Husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased
  • Person who has lived or cohabited with the deceased for two continuous years
  • Parent, child, brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased
  • Someone who was treated as a parent or child by the deceased

Also, there is a rule that states that the victim must have been able to make a claim themselves had they not died following the injury.

The Access to Health Records Act 1990 gives you the right to see some of your deceased relative’s medical records – whether or not there were fatal injuries involved. On request, access is likely to be granted to the executor of the individual’s will or anyone with a potential claim.

The NHS has an online form which you will need to fill out in order to make a request.

There are only a few circumstances in which medical records can be refused, that is if it may cause physical or mental harm to an individual or that it would identify a third party.  In these situations that information would be removed and then the records would be sent to you.

A GP will keep your records for 8 years following a treatment you’ve received and a hospital Trust will keep them for over 10 years. You’re actually only entitled to your medical records after 1991, but usually, a Trust will send you all the records.

It usually takes about 40 working days to obtain your medical records.   It can be a little be longer, so don’t be disheartened if it takes a bit more time.

It is now free to access your own records and medical professionals have a legal requirement to allow you to see them. If it is for a deceased person or another living person, you may still have to pay a fee.

If you’ve already obtained your medical records and you think you’ve been a victim of medical negligence, you can send the records through to us and we will review them. If you haven’t obtained them, we can actually make that application on your behalf if we think you have a successful case.

Read less

Yes, there is usually a time limit of 3 years from the date of death.

There are some exceptions to this rule. The time limit could be extended if the dependent is under the age of 18 or they do not have the mental capacity to make a claim due to a disability.

We can’t tell you exactly how long your fatal injuries claim will take to go through. The length of time it takes will depend on several factors including the strength of the evidence available and the willingness of the defendant to negotiate a reasonable settlement.

Sometimes, settlements are offered quickly and a claim can be settled within a few months. However, in extremely complex cases or, when the defendant denies liability, it could take several years to reach a settlement.

It is very unlikely that you will need to attend a court hearing for a fatal injury case.

Just 2% of claims brought against the NHS go to trial. Even in the rare situation that it does, it is most likely that only the defendant will be required to attend court.

If you decide to proceed with a fatal injury claim, we will calculate its value based on a range of factors such as financial damages and any future impact. Sometimes the financial damages caused to the claimant are more easily quantifiable than others, so how precise our calculation is will depend on the details of the case.