Medical Negligence Leading to Death: Fatal Injury Claims

Written by
John Ringrose on
07 February 2022

A fatal injury claim* can be taken by the next of kin of a deceased if the death is caused by the wrongful act of another.

Although no monetary sum can fill the void left when you lose a loved one, the compensation that your family could receive can help with future costs for you and your family.

At HOMS Assist, we have more than 50 years of dealing with fatal injury claims. We can assist you with the process of seeking compensation for your loss where it has arisen due to another party's negligence.

When Does a Fatal Injury Claim Arise? 

Examples of situations in which a fatal injury action could arise include:

Examples of Fatal Medical Negligence Claims

  • Delayed hospital referral

A patient who presents to their G.P. with the signs of disease that require the attention of a specialist should be referred by them to a hospital. A delay may result in a delayed diagnosis ultimately resulting in death.

  • Delayed diagnosis

Timely diagnosis of a disease is essential in achieving the best possible outcome for patient recovery. Occasionally medical professionals may fail to spot signs of disease through incorrectly interpreting initial tests or scan results. Failure to spot signs of disease until it is too advanced may have a serious adverse health consequence to the life of the patient affected if appropriate treatment is delayed as a result.

  • Delayed surgery

If treatment is delayed unnecessarily due to negligence, the patient’s condition could have worsened as a result of the additional wait time. Illness for example could spread to another part of the patient’s body without being detected and ultimately cause the illness to become terminal.

  • Surgical negligence

Medical negligence relating to surgery can have a devastating effect on patients and sometimes prove fatal.

  • Fatal medication errors

Prescription and medication errors can happen by receiving the wrong medication from medical practitioners, leading to adverse side effects and on occasion death.

  • Negligence during childbirth

While certain risk factors may increase the chances that a woman will die during childbirth or pregnancy, it is estimated that up to 60% of all maternal deaths are preventable. This means that maternal deaths are occurring for reasons that are within a physician’s control such as a failure to adequately control serious bleeding, infections and preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure).

Making a Fatal Injury Claim after a Loved One has Died

In order to proceed with a case, the claim must be submitted to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. Once the claim is submitted, the defendant is given an opportunity to consent to the injuries board assessing the claim or consent to the injuries board issuing an authorisation to permit the next of kin to issue proceedings. 

Who Can Bring a Fatal Injury Claim?

Where the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act of another, then the dependents of the deceased can sue for damages. Only one claim can be made on behalf of the estate of the deceased. For the first six months after the death of the deceased, the personal representatives are the only people entitled to bring a fatal injury claim. After six months have passed the Statutory Dependents can bring a fatal injury action.

How Do You Determine who is a Statutory Dependent?

Who qualifies as coming within the category of Statutory Dependent is set out in the Civil Liability Act 1961.

The Statutory Dependents can include the following:

  • Spouse
  • Child
  • Parent
  • Stepparent
  • Grandparent
  • Grandchild
  • Sibling
  • Half-sibling
  • Adopted child
  • Person in loco parentis
  • Cohabitee who can prove that they have been living together as husband an wife for a continuous period of more than three years
  • Former Spouse – but only if they can prove financial loss.

What Can You Claim For?

A fatal injury claim can fall under several categories. In general, they belong to the following three categories: 

Special Damages

Out of pocket expenses (known as special damages)  that are recoverable in the context of fatal injuries will include damages for funeral expenses and if the deceased, for example, is a foreign national, it would include the transporting of the body abroad and the airfares applicable.

Compensation for emotional and mental distress

The Civil Liability Act 1961 provides for a payment called Solatium to be made to defendants of a deceased person for mental distress in fatal personal injuries actions. The figure allowed is currently capped at €35,000 in total. The Solatium awarded is intended to be an acknowledgement of grief rather than an attempted compensation for it.

Loss of Dependency Claim

This category is divided into two subcategories:

  • Loss of Financial Dependency

This will be claimed for any dependent who was financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death. We engage with you and our own panel of accountants to prepare a report setting out the financial loss that will be incurred into the future following the death of the deceased.

  • Loss of services

In order to value the loss of services, the services provided by the deceased to the household or his or her dependents prior to their death is valued – services such as childcare, cooking, gardening, repairs, maintenance etc. This is then multiplied based on the number of years that it would be estimated that these services would be provided for.

Time Limits for Making Fatal Injury Claims

In general, the legal representatives of the deceased or one of their Statutory Dependents have two years from the date of death to initiate fatal injuries proceedings. Occasionally, time will begin to run from the date of knowledge of the person for whose benefit the action is brought. In the vast majority of cases, the limitation period however for making a claim is two years from the date of death.  . 

However, fatal injury claims arising from medical negligence do not require an application to or an authorisation from the Injuries Board pursuant to Section 3 (d) of the PIAB Act 2003.

Public Inquests

Medical professionals are obliged to report a death to the Coroner where a death occurred because of suspected medical negligence. For example, where a death occurred as a result of a medical or surgical procedure or during childbirth, the Coroner will commence investigations once a question arises as to whether or not the procedure contributed to the deceased person’s death. A Coroner may decide to hold a public inquest. The purpose of the inquest is to establish the cause of death and the circumstances surrounding an unexplained death.

We at HOMS Assist have many years’ experience in representing families at inquests and supporting them through what can be a difficult and emotional time.

If your loved one has suffered from a fatal injury that has resulted in death, get in touch with us. You may be entitled to make a fatal injury claim.

Please contact our team to discuss your personal circumstances confidentially. We are here to provide expert advice when you need it most.

Call us today on 1800 207 207 or contact us online.