A wrongful death is a fatality caused by the negligence of a person, company or other legal entity and is particularly difficult to deal with if caused as a result of negligent medical treatment. Deaths alleged to have been caused by medical negligence can be very difficult to prove. However, if you suspect the death of a loved one may have been as a result of negligent medical care it is important to seek expert legal advice as soon as possible.
It may be necessary to seek an inquiry into the death and liaise with the hospital or healthcare facility concerned, the Medical Council, the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the Coroner. We have experience in dealing with suspected wrongful death cases and are sensitive to the needs of the deceased’s family, treating each client and each case with confidentiality, sensitivity and respect.
While no amount of money will compensate for the loss suffered, we make every effort to ensure the deceased’s dependants receive appropriate compensation, as permissible by law, to mitigate any financial hardship caused by the deceased’s death. Our aim is to ease the stress associated in dealing with a wrongful death claim offering expert advice and a safe pair of hands.
When a wrongful death occurs an inquest is held to establish the cause of death. An Inquest is a public hearing which is presided over by a coroner and which is usually held within a few months of the fatal accident. It should be noted that the purpose of the Inquest is not to apportion blame. The family or any interested party at the discretion of the coroner may be legally represented at the Inquest. The outcome of an Inquest can have a significant bearing on any subsequent claim arising, including life insurance claims. As a consequence, it is always advisable to have your interests represented by a solicitor at an Inquest particularly as it presents an opportunity to question the medical attendants and other witnesses involved.
Making a Claim*
In order to pursue a wrongful death claim it needs to be shown that the medical treatment received by the deceased fell below an acceptable standard and that there is a direct link between the alleged sub-standard care and the deceased’s death. The legal representative of the deceased is entitled to pursue a claim for damages however proceedings must be brought within 6 months following the date of death. Thereafter, the deceased’s dependents may bring a claim.
Only one legal action is brought on behalf of all the deceased’s dependants. A dependent is a person that relied on the deceased for financial support, has suffered financial loss and distress as a result of the fatal accident and is related to the deceased.
Dependents are generally close family members and include:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Cohabiting partner of deceased (subject to certain conditions)
- Brother or Sister
- Stepmother or Stepfather
- Stepbrother or Stepsister
Wrongful death claims can be divided into 3 distinct heads of damage:
- Special Damages: these are recoverable funeral and other expenses, including the legal costs of attending an Inquest, and are added as part of the claim made against the party alleged to have negligently caused the death of the deceased.
- Solatium: this is a statutory created set payment available to dependents to compensate them for the mental distress and anguish caused by the death of the deceased. It is a lump sum payment which is divided between the deceased’s dependents and capped at €25,395.
- Loss of Dependency: this head of damages refers to the loss of financial support suffered by the dependents as a result of the untimely death of the deceased. It is calculated from the date of death and takes into account the life expectancy of the deceased and other factors.
Strict time limits apply when it comes to issuing legal proceedings and wrongful death cases can be quite complex. If you suspect a loved one may have died as a result of medical negligence you should seek legal advice as soon possible.
If you would like discuss a potential claim or need advice on a suspected wrongful death or any other matter, please Contact Us for a consultation.
*in contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award of damages.