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7 December 2022 | Comment | Article by Lynda Reynolds

National Grief Awareness Week – Losing a loved one because of medical negligence

07/12/22, Written by Ellie Jones, Paralegal in Medical Negligence

On 8 December at 6pm, you may notice the flare of orange candlelight in windows across the UK and you may wonder what this means.

This candlelight signifies National Grief Awareness Week which has grown to become a national event. National Grief awareness week, or NGAW, is a national initiative run by the Good Grief Trust and is dedicated to raising awareness of the impact of grief and loss. This year’s theme is to ‘open conversations and normalise grief’. This can be achieved by simply reaching out, stopping for a chat, and having open conversations. The Good Grief Trust aim to break the taboo around the topic of grief, encouraging discussion and providing vital support services in the community that are often not known to the family.

NGAW takes place each year between 2 – 8 December. When families are left with the grief of losing a loved one, many can start to feel incredibly lonely, isolated, and even experience severe mental and physical side effects as a result.

At Hugh James, we understand that the loss of a loved one is always a difficult experience, but in cases where their death may have been avoidable, or following poor medical treatment, it can be that much harder to accept. Our Clinical Negligence Team have helped hundreds of families whose loved ones have passed away due to medical negligence including complex cases involving:

  • delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis
  • substandard or negligent treatment
  • surgical or medical error
  • infections leading to sepsis

Whilst bringing a claim may not be an immediate concern when a family member passes away, it is important to investigate any potential claim for clinical negligence at the earliest opportunity. The three-year time limit for commencing proceedings begins to run from the deceased’s date of death and therefore legal advice should be sought as soon as reasonably possible.

Following a death as a result of medical negligence, there may be internal reviews or investigations carried out by the hospital and the local Coroner may look to open an inquest into the death to investigate the circumstances surrounding how they died.

Here at Hugh James, we have a specialist inquest team headed by Partner Lynda Reynolds. Our inquest team has considerable experience in representing families in inquests which relate to deaths in hospitals and care homes where medical negligence is likely to have been a factor.

Once any internal investigations and/or inquests draw to a close, a clinical negligence claim can be investigated. Fatal claims can often be very complicated in nature and can often take years to conclude, depending on the circumstances.

The Medical Negligence team at Hugh James have many years of experience in assisting families with claims following the death of a loved one. We appreciate and anticipate the complexities that these claims often bring, and we take the utmost care to ensure that families are supported through the process of bringing a claim.

If you believe that your loved one has lost their life as a result of medical negligence, please consider getting in touch with our new enquiries team who are happy to speak to you.

Fatal Claims

There are two main pieces of legislation that set out the law relating to fatal claims. Namely, the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. There are important differences between the two and it is important that you instruct a solicitor who has experience advising clients in fatal claims.

Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934

This act enables the personal representative of the deceased’s estate to claim for losses arising from negligence which the Deceased would have been able to claim prior to their death.

This includes:

  • Pain, suffering and loss of amenity from the time of the injury and up until the death
  • Financial loss from the time of the injury until death as long as they are attributable to the negligence (this can include loss of earnings, medical expenses, care provided by family and friends etc), and
  • Funeral expenses provided they are reasonable and were incurred by the estate

Any compensation awarded under these provisions pass to the Deceased’s estate. From there, they will pass according to the Deceased’s will or according to the intestacy rules if there isn’t a will.

Fatal Accidents Act 1976

The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 provides for claims to be made by those relatives who have suffered as a loss of dependency as a result of the Deceased’s death.

There are three heads of loss which may be claimed:

  • Bereavement award – This is a fixed sum which currently stands at £12,890 for deaths occurring after 1 April 2013. It is payable in very limited instances namely to the spouse or civil partner of the Deceased and the parents of an unmarried child under 18.
  • Loss of dependency and services – this is a claim for the loss to those who relied on the deceased’s income or provision of services (which can include gardening, DIY work within the home and childcare).
  • Funeral expenses – where dependants have incurred the funeral expenses, they can be reimbursed for their reasonable expenses.

Author bio

Lynda Reynolds


Lynda is a Partner and Head of the Inquest Team that forms part of the Clinical Negligence Department in the London office. She has considerable experience in assisting families with inquests that relate to deaths in hospital or care homes, where medical negligence is suspected.

She has been instructed on Article 2 inquests, inquests with juries and complicated medical inquests where numerous experts have been instructed. Where necessary she will make submissions on the Coroner’s power to issue Prevention of Future Deaths reports. Her inquest role combined with subsequent civil claims ensures that she is a specialist on Fatal Accident Act Claims. She is recognised in both UK Chambers & Partners and Legal 500.

In addition to her role in the Inquest team Lynda has a caseload of complex clinical negligence matters which include cerebral palsy, brain injuries, spinal injuries and cauda equina claims.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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