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Death due to medical negligence

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

The sudden or unexpected passing of a friend or family member while in the care of the medical profession can be very difficult to cope with, especially if you suspect their death was caused by those whom you trusted to look after your loved one.

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.

A different kind of law firm

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 lawyers have guided families through wrongful death compensation claims and provided representation at inquests for more than 30 years, so you can rest assured that you’re in safe hands.

With or without an inquest, our experienced legal team can help you to investigate whether the death was caused by medical negligence. 

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 follow a bereavement.

Whatever the particulars of your situation, our team of specialists will deal with your case in a professional and sensitive manner, offering all the support and guidance you need at such a distressing time.

What could be classed as fatal medical negligence?

Fatal medical negligence can take many forms, such as:

- An incorrect or delayed diagnosis

- Inadequate or unsuitable treatment

- Symptoms being ignored

- A malfunctioning medical device

- An incorrect prescription

- An operation being carried out poorly or incorrectly

These are just some examples of fatal medical errors and if you think none of the above applies to the passing of your loved one, you may still have grounds to make a wrongful death claim.

If you believe the death of a loved one was caused as a result of a hospital or doctor's negligence, we're here to listen. You can call us on 0370 086 8687 or send us a message.


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  • How can death by negligence affect you?

    The effects of losing a loved one can be huge and varied. Attempting to cope with the passing of a family member or close friend can instigate feelings of deep sadness, grief, depression and loneliness – all of which are likely to impact your physical and mental health. And if you believe their death was caused by a fatal medical error, it’s only natural that you will feel a good deal of frustration and anger too.

    There may also be financial implications to contend with. If your loved one was the main breadwinner in the family, their passing could have an impact on your economic situation, which may add feelings of anxiety on top of your emotional pain.

    No amount of compensation for death by negligence could ever make up for the loss of a loved one. But making a claim can sometimes help families to receive closure in the form of answers. Any damages received can also ease some of your financial worries and help you in taking those painful early steps towards coping with your loss.

  • Who can make a fatal medical negligence claim?

    A personal representative (executor of a will or administrator of an estate) can make a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Spouses, civil partners, cohabitees (of two years or more) parents/guardians, grandparents, siblings and aunts/uncles can also make fatal medical negligence claims as dependants.

    If you're unsure whether you're eligible to make a claim, our friendly advisors are on hand to help. You can contact us at a time that suits you by calling 0370 086 8687 or by sending us a message

  • How can death by negligence affect you?

    No amount of money can replace the loved one you have lost or make up for the pain and suffering you’re going through. However, a wrongful death claim can help to provide much-needed answers, as well as alleviating any financial strain you may be under.

    Furthermore, if fatal medical errors were to blame for the death of your friend or family member, bringing a wrongful death claim may help to highlight any issues within the system and hopefully prevent such a tragedy from happening to others.

  • How do you know if you have grounds for a claim?

    Establishing whether you have grounds for making a fatal medical negligence compensation claim involves the same process as any medical negligence case. As a claimant, you have to prove that the care and/or treatment that your loved one received fell below the standard of care that was expected of a healthcare professional at the time. 

    Because there are so many ways in which medical negligence can affect a patient and the complexities involved in medicine, it can be difficult for loved ones to prove liability in fatal medical negligence cases.

    However, if you believe that a healthcare professional has been negligent, be it in delaying diagnosis or treatment, failure to deliver the right care, or simply making a fatal error, our friendly experts are here to help. 

    If the death was sudden or unexpected, it is reported to the coroner. If the coroner is unable to conclude that death was due to natural causes, an inquest is held. The evidence obtained at the inquest is often very helpful in proving a wrongful death claim.

    We'll take a full account from you of what has happened and will advise you on whether or not we think you have a claim. 

  • How to make a wrongful death claim due to medical negligence

    Making a wrongful death 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 minds, is essential to ensure that evidence is not lost.

    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 the death was considered ‘suspicious’ and an inquest is to be held, it’s crucial that you contact us before the inquest takes place. This gives us the time 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 wrongful death claim.

    It was thanks to our thorough investigation and expertise that we were able to get the closure Andrew O'Hara deserved following the death of his wife. Thanks to our due diligence and dogged determination a settlement was secured, and the hospital accepted responsibility for his wife's death. 

    If you wish to make a fatal medical negligence claim, we have the expertise and compassion to help. Our knowledge and experience will ensure we carry out a thorough investigation to help maximise the amount of compensation you could be awarded. If you feel you may have a case, call us on 0370 086 8687 or send us a message for a free initial consultation and we can give you the benefit of all our experience and knowhow.



The impact of COVID-19 on fatal medical negligence claims

Our health service has been under immense pressure throughout the pandemic and the repercussions may be felt for many years. However, our healthcare providers are still required to provide safe, reasonable and acceptable standards of care. 

If a loved one lost their life during the pandemic as a result of neglect at the hands of those who were entrusted to help keep them safe and well, you may be entitled to a bereavement award for clinical negligence.

This is what we did following the tragic death of Jesse Rollason, whose death was caused by hospital negligence during the pandemic.

How can Shoosmiths help you?

If you feel a loved one has suffered a medical death that could have been avoided, we can help you. Not only will we offer the best legal guidance and expertise, but we’ll do everything in our power to help you on a personal level too.

We’ll work alongside you every step of the way, creating a strong relationship built on mutual trust. Our purpose is two-fold: to help you receive the wrongful death compensation you need, and to provide all the emotional support you require. 

We can also take your fatal medical negligence claim on a no win no fee basis, which means there is no financial risk on your part even in the event of your case proving unsuccessful.



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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who to bring a claim against?

    If you think the death was due to negligence by a doctor or any other healthcare provider, you may be entitled to make a claim.

    If you're looking to sue a hospital for wrongful death, you will bring the claim against the NHS trust, rather than the individual clinician involved. When bringing a claim against a GP the correct defendant must be identified, and a separate claim must be brought against each individual involved. Because GPs are not employed by the NHS, and they are only contracted by them, GPs and nurse practitioners must take out their own indemnity insurance. This includes doctors and nurses who work in out-of-hours clinics, even those attached to hospitals. 

    There are some exceptions to these general rules, however, we will discuss your personal circumstances during our initial call. 

  • How long do claims take?

    There is no simple answer to the question of how long a wrongful death 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 will also obtain an independent, expert medical opinion on the standard of care received and the cause of death. The time it takes to obtain the records depends on the cooperation of the other side, whether the records are complete, when they are disclosed and whether they need to be obtained from a number of different sources.

    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 and aim to settle your fatal medical negligence case as quickly as possible, but it will take time to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.

  • Do claims end up in court?

    Since 1998, the Court rules have emphasised the importance of attempting to negotiate settlement of claims in a bid to avoid unnecessary involvement of the Courts. These rules include a process for making and responding to formal settlement offers (called “Part 36 offers”). 

    Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court. 

    Of course, should your fatal medical negligence claim go to court, we will be beside you throughout the process. We will explain what is required of you, as well as help you understand the proceedings. 

  • Will an inquest be required?

    If your loved one died unexpectedly then an inquest will be required. 

    We've been instructed to help many grieving families through a loved one's inquest, which is what we did for the Myatt family. Following a fatal injury during a routine nursing procedure, a post mortem conclusion raised concerns and an inquest was opened. 

  • How long do you have to make a claim?
    There is a three-year time limit for bringing fatal medical negligence claims, which starts from the date of death. If a wrongful death 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 deadline can be requested.
  • How much does it cost to bring a claim?
    If you come to Shoosmiths to discuss a wrongful death claim, your initial consultation will come at no charge. We’ll offer expert, reliable advice on any expected costs related to your case, and it may be that we can handle your fatal medical negligence claim on a no win no fee basis. If you’d like more information on this topic, please have a look at our guide to funding your claim.
  • How much compensation could you receive?

    No two wrongful death claims are the same, which is why it is difficult to provide a specific answer to this question. The amount of medical death compensation you could be entitled to will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the degree of negligence and the effect upon the wellbeing of you and your family.

    The loss of a loved one may also have left you in financial difficulty. If you can prove that your loved one's death was caused by medical negligence, the amount you will be able to claim will depend on your relationship with them and whether you were dependent on them in some way. 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 the loss of that financial dependency. You will also be entitled to claim for funeral expenses.

    In addition, the spouse of the deceased or the parents of a child who died when under the age of 18 years are entitled to claim bereavement damages. 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. Only these persons can claim a bereavement award under the 1976 Act. No one else in the family is entitled to do so. 


Why choose Shoosmiths to help?

Here at Shoosmiths, we have more than 30 years of experience dealing with wrongful death claims and have carefully built a reputation for taking a professional, sensitive approach in helping families through the trauma of losing a loved one.

These are just some of the reasons why we’re a leading wrongful death law firm:

You can also read our client testimonials to see how we have helped other families who have experienced the same anguish. 


Next steps

We're here for you, every step of the way. If you think fatal medical errors contributed to, accelerated or were a direct cause of a loved one’s passing, call us today on 0370 086 8687 or send us a message.

During your free initial consultation, we’ll listen carefully to your story and discuss your options regarding making a claim for wrongful death compensation. In partnering with Shoosmiths, you’re guaranteeing the very best legal minds as well as continuous support throughout your case and beyond.

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Who we work with

  • Brain Injury Group
  • Child Brain Injury Trust
  • Headway
  • SIA
  • Back Up
  • Macmillan
  • Danielles Flutterbyes
  • Forces
  • Bens Heroes Trust

Our accreditations

  • Accredited Personal Injury
  • Apil
  • Ama
  • Clinical Negligence
  • Legal 500
  • UK Chambers
  • The Society Of Clinical Injury Lawyers