The dangers of Sepsis
Sepsis Awareness Month 2019
Medical Negligence and Personal Injury claims: Funding a claim
Funding a clinical negligence claim
‘Gross failings’ by medical staff lead to another child fatality from sepsis – is enough being done to stop this happening again?
Substandard treatment of meningitis, or another infection which causes sepsis, can have serious consequences.
We act for adults, children, and families who have been impacted by medical negligence in connection with the treatment of meningitis and sepsis. Our expertise in medical negligence is recognised by the legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers UK.
Meningitis refers to inflammation around the brain and spinal cord, which is often caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It is a dangerous illness which requires urgent treatment. Some people recover fully. Others, however, suffer long-term effects including brain injury, amputation of limbs, visual impairment or hearing loss. In some cases meningitis is fatal.
Sepsis (sometimes described as septicaemia or blood poisoning) is an overreaction of the immune system following an infection or injury. If it is not diagnosed and treated properly, sepsis can also lead to permanent disabilities and even death.
If you or a family member has suffered disability as a result of failures in the treatment of meningitis or sepsis, we can support you through the process of bringing a claim to obtain compensation.
Where you have lost a loved one, we can also assist in bringing a claim for compensation for the dependents of the person who died.
If you are concerned about the treatment which you or a loved one received for meningitis or sepsis, please contact us to discuss how we can help.
Your (or your child’s) claim
Your case will be investigated by our specialist lawyers, led by a partner. Typically this involves working with experienced medical experts (such infectious disease specialists and microbiologists) to understand whether there was a delay in diagnosis, or other failures in treatment, which affected the progression of the disease.
We also calculate the funds required to provide an individualised package of high quality care and support going forwards. Compensation may also be claimed for losses, such as lost earnings or pension.
For further information about compensation we have secured for clients, see cases we have acted in.
What is meningitis?
Meningitis is an illness in which the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (the meninges) become inflamed. Often this is caused by a virus or bacterial infection. It can occur at any age.
In some cases, when meningitis is caused by bacterial infection, the bacteria also enter the blood stream and cause sepsis (blood poisoning). This is described as meningococcal septicaemia.
What is sepsis?
Sepsis occurs when the immune system overreacts to an infection and begins attacking healthy tissue and organs in the body. Many types of infection can cause sepsis. Even if the infection itself is minor (such as an infected cut or urinary tract infection), sepsis can cause serious damage to healthy tissue and organs.
The Sepsis Trust estimates that 40% of people who survive sepsis suffer permanent, life-changing, effects.
How long do I have to bring a claim?
There are strict time limits for bringing a negligence claim for injury in England and Wales. This is called the limitation period.
For adults, the usual rule is that a claim must be formally started at Court within three years of the date the negligence occurred, or of the date on which the injured person should reasonably have been aware that there might be grounds to bring a claim (if that date is later).
Where a child is injured by negligence, they usually have until their 21st birthday to formally start their claim at Court.
Where the claim relates to someone’s death, the limitation period is three years from the date of death or from the ‘date of knowledge’ (if that is later).
There are circumstances in which the rules differ; for example, where the claim is for someone who does not have mental capacity to bring a legal claim.
It takes time to investigate a claim, so you should contact us as soon as possible.
Can I bring a claim on behalf of a child or family member who is not able to do it themselves?
If a claim relates to disabilities suffered by a child or an adult who does not have ‘mental capacity’; a family member (or other trusted person) can act as a ‘Litigation Friend’ and bring the claim on their behalf.
Where the claim relates to someone’s death, the Executor(s) of their Estate or one of their dependants can bring the claim.
If you are unsure about whether you can bring a claim on someone else’s behalf, we will be able to advise you.
What is the process for bringing a claim?
We start by obtaining evidence such as medical records, witness statements, and expert evidence to prove that the poor outcome was caused by negligence.
We also calculate the amount of compensation that can be claimed. Typically this involves instructing experienced experts to advise on the injured person's needs, in order to maximise the level of compensation. We then try to reach a financial settlement with the Defendant (the individual or organisation legally responsible) or their insurer.
In some cases, settlement is agreed at an early stage. In other circumstances, it may be necessary to begin Court proceedings.
For further information on this process, read Our Guide to Making a Claim.
Will the case be decided by the Court?
Probably not. The vast majority of medical negligence claims are not decided by the Court. Occasionally, the Court will decide a case, if it cannot be resolved any other way.
Successful claims are usually resolved by agreeing a settlement either before or during formal Court proceedings.
Where the claim is for a child or for an adult who does not have mental capacity, the Court will be asked to consider and approve the settlement. This is a safeguard required under the Court rules to ensure that the settlement is in the best interests of the injured person.
How is the amount of compensation decided?
Where someone has suffered disability as a result of medical negligence, we tailor the compensation to meet their needs.
The first step is to consider how the disabilities have affected their life and whether that will change in the future. We then calculate the amount of funds required to meet their additional needs and compensate them. Depending upon the circumstances, this may include funds for:
- Private care
- Private therapies and medical care
- Specialist equipment and vehicles
- Adapted accommodation
- Support with education and work (if that is possible for the injured person)
- Compensation for loss of earnings and pension
- Compensation for losses in self-employment
We regularly use leading experts and barristers to assist in identifying all aspects of an injured person’s needs. This often includes predicting the long-term needs of disabled children and adults over their whole lifetime.
Where someone has died, the compensation primarily relates to compensating the deceased’s dependents for the practical and/or financial support which they would otherwise have received from the deceased.
I am already struggling with aftermath of meningitis or sepsis. Will it take a long time before the case is concluded?
Medical negligence claims typically involve detailed investigation and expert evidence. Therefore, they often take several years to resolve.
Our approach is to seek an admission of liability (i.e. that negligence occurred and caused injury) as early as possible in the process.
When liability is established, the Defendant usually has to pay part of the compensation immediately. This allows the injured person’s needs to begin to be met, while the work to quantify the full amount of compensation continues.
How do I access medical records?
Medical records are usually the starting point for our investigation of a claim. With your permission; we request these records directly from the treatment provider(s).
Our clients sometimes wish to obtain copies of their (or their child’s) records before deciding whether to begin a claim. Please see our Guide to Accessing Medical Records for further information on how to request records yourself.
Other organisations and resources that may help
- Meningitis Now
- The Sepsis Trust
- AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents)
- APIL (Association of Personal Injury Lawyers)
Partner and Head of Department
Associate (Chartered Legal Executive)