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Fatal medical negligence claims

The sudden or unexpected death of a loved one whilst in the care of the medical profession can be very difficult to cope with, especially if you suspect that death was caused by the very people in whom you put your trust to care for the person who was important to you.


Losing a loved one is distressing and a difficult time for you and your family, especially if you believe that the death could have been avoided with proper medical care. Our experienced team can guide you through the process of making a compensation claim and help you get answers.


The sudden or unexpected death of a loved one whilst in the care of the medical profession can be very difficult to cope with, especially if you suspect that death was caused by the very people in whom you put your trust to care for the person who was important to you.

The death may be reported to the coroner who may decide to hold an inquest. Participating in the inquest process and having the opportunity to ask questions is helpful for families trying to come to terms with their loss.

At Shoosmiths, we know that listening to the detail of how and why a loved one died can be a very difficult ordeal. Our team of experienced medical negligence solicitors have guided families and provided representation at inquests for more than 30 years.

The loss of a loved one, particularly if they were the main income provider, can have a significant impact on your financial circumstances and lead to an uncertain financial future. With or without an inquest our experienced legal team can help you to investigate whether the death was caused by medical negligence and pursue a fatal injury compensation claim that may help you get answers as well as damages that can alleviate the impact of the financial and other losses caused by the death.

We feel it’s important to meet face-to-face so you feel comfortable with us and we understand your individual needs, which may include practical and legal assistance in dealing with probate or the other issues that flow from any bereavement.

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How do I make a fatal medical negligence claim?

These can be complex, lengthy and demanding cases, especially if an inquest is held. Some people may be content to receive an apology when treatment fell short of the required standards so they can move on and begin to deal with their loss.

A formal complaint within six months of the death should get a response from the NHS Trust or the private consultant or surgeon involved. That in itself may be sufficient to put your mind at ease.
If you wish to make a compensation claim you should contact an experienced medical negligence lawyer, like us, specialising in fatal medical negligence claims. We have the knowledge and expertise to properly investigate your claim and to maximise your compensation.

If the death was considered ‘suspicious’ and an inquest is to held it’s crucial you contact us before the inquest takes place. This gives us the time we need to obtain the evidence we need, including the medical records to put us in the strongest position to help.

Having legal representation at an inquest also means there is someone who can guide you through the process and explain what's happening. Although the Inquest will not apportion blame for the death, it can provide information that could be helpful to your claim.

If you feel you may have a case, call us for a free initial consultation and we can give you the benefit of our experience and expertise.

How long will a fatal medical negligence claim or inquest take?

There is no simple answer to the question of how long a claim may take. These sensitive and emotional cases require legal expertise and a great deal of patience.

Progress will be dictated by how quickly the investigation into the death is carried out and whether the other party admits that the treatment received was negligent and that it caused, contributed to or accelerated the death.

We will need access to medical records and obtain independent expert medical opinion on the standard of the care received and the cause of the death. The time it takes to obtain the records depends on the co-operation of the other side and whether the records are complete when they are disclosed and whether they need to be obtained from a number of different sources.

We will also need to obtain expert medical opinion about the standard or treatment given and the time taken to compile these reports depends on the type and complexity of the claim. If the death was sudden or unexpected an inquest may be required. It may be appropriate to await the outcome of the inquest before bringing a civil claim as the coroner’s verdict may prove very helpful in any subsequent civil compensation claim.

We will always help you to seek answers from those responsible as quickly as possible and aim to settle your case without delay, but it will take time to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.

If I have a fatal medical claim

Establishing if you have a case for making a fatal medical negligence compensation claim involves the same process as any medical negligence case. We need to prove on the balance of probabilities (i.e. more than 50%) that the treatment your loved one received fell below the acceptable standard of care and was therefore negligent. The next step is to prove, again on the balance of probabilities, that the negligence care caused or contributed to the death.

If the death was sudden or unexpected it is reported to the coroner. If following initial investigations the coroner is unable to conclude that death was not due to natural causes, an inquest is held. The evidence and information obtained at the inquest is often very helpful in proving a fatal accident claim.

There is a three year time limit for bringing these claims which starts from the date of death. If a claim is not issued in the court within this time limit, you may be precluded from bringing a claim. However, if you are awaiting the outcome of an inquest which may be delayed, an extension to this time limit can be requested.

The value of your compensation claim will be influenced by a number of factors including financial dependency on the deceased. However, dependency may also include less tangible services including, DIY or gardening services as well as more important matters such as the loss of a mother or father’s care when she is tragically killed.

More about fatal medical negligence claims

Making a compensation claim is often the last thing on your mind as you grieve for a loved one. However, starting investigations as soon as you can when the detail of what happened is still fresh in everyone's mind is essential to ensuring that evidence is not lost.

The death of a loved one may have left you in financial difficulty and the sooner investigations are carried out the quicker compensation can be claimed to relieve that financial burden. If you are able to prove that your loved one's death was caused by medical negligence, the amount you will be able claim will depend on your relationship with them and whether you were dependent on them in some way.

If you have lost a husband or wife or a child under the age of 18 due to medical negligence you will be able to claim a statutory bereavement award, which is currently £15,120, if the death occurred after 1 May 2020.  If the death was before 1 May 2020 the bereavement award is £12,980. If you were dependent on them for care you will be able to make a claim for the cost of the care provided to you by someone else. If you were financially dependent on them, you will be able to make a claim for loss of that financial dependency. You will also be entitled to claim for the funeral expenses.

A personal representative (executor of a will of administrator of an estate) can make a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate.  A spouse, civil partners, co-habitees (of two years or more) parents/guardians, grandparents, siblings and aunts/uncles can also make fatal injury negligence claims as dependents.

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'Shoosmiths got me the rehab I needed and really helped with my family. They were fantastic throughout.'

Nicola Cooper, who suffered a serious brain injury after a seemingly trivial car accident.

Fatal Medical Claims

Understanding what happened in fatal injury claims can be a comfort during a very distressing time. Shoosmiths medical negligence team has the expertise to help you reach a successful conclusion.

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