Clinical Negligence Resulting in Death: Understanding Compensation Claims

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05 March, 2024

John Bennett

When a loved one suffers harm or loses their life due to medical negligence, it can be an emotionally devastating experience. In such cases, understanding your rights and the compensation you may be entitled to is crucial. Let's delve into the key aspects:

What Constitutes Medical Negligence Resulting in Death?

Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare professional fails to provide the standard of care expected in their field. If this negligence leads to a person's death, the responsible medical institution or professional can be held accountable. Common scenarios include:

Negligence in A&E: Mistakes made during emergency care.

Surgical Negligence: Errors during surgical procedures.

Misdiagnosis: When a correct diagnosis could have altered the outcome.

Prescription and Medication Negligence: Errors related to medications.

Birth Negligence: Failures during childbirth.

Compensation for Wrongful Death

If your relative has passed away due to medical negligence, you have the right to claim compensation for their wrongful death. The amount of compensation varies based on the specific circumstances.

A recent example of how the law works in this situation was highlighted in the Times Newspaper, reporting on the tragic death of Esmee Polmear at the age of 7 when she collapsed in the reception area of her primary school in 2015 and died.

She had a rare lung condition, pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, which Royal Cornwall Hospital later admitted it should have diagnosed when she had visited the hospital with breathing difficulties the year before.

The supreme Court looked at a number of cases involving claimants by parents and others who had witnessed the tragic death of a loved one whilst in hospital as a result of NHS failings.

The law in England continues to be particularly harsh when it comes to the death of a loved one. Only a long-standing, live-in partner, a spouse or dependent child can claim for the death and any losses arising from it.

The estate of the deceased can bring a claim for any additional pain and suffering caused by the negligence, but this is often limited to the date of the incident and the time of their death.

The value of the bereavement award payable in England and Wales is currently fixed at £15,120, if death occurs after the 6th October 2020.

As the law currently stands only a spouse, live in partner and parent can claim the bereavement award and other losses that may flow from it, funeral costs, loss of love and affection, support and income.

The Supreme court has now decided that no damages can be awarded for the shock and distress caused by witnessing the death of a loved one in a clinical negligence setting.

The basis of the court's decision was the death in each of the cases they were considering were separated in space and time from the negligence. In other words, the failure to diagnose their conditions didn't lead to any immediate and horrific death, the death occurred sometime later. It is difficult to envisage who a case for distress in a clinical setting can now ever be brought.

Whilst this decision restricts the possibility of secondary victims pursuing claims for psychiatric harm in Clinical negligence claims. Any individual who has had the misfortune witness the shocking and horrific loss of a loved one may well still have a claim. There are many examples of such cases involving road traffic accidents and accidents at work, where such claims have been successful.

If you have been unfortunate enough to be the victim of such incident, please contact one of the team for some no obligation, no-win no fee advice.

For more information contact John Bennett in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 872111. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Clinical Negligence department here

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