Successful secondary victim claim settles

Shantala Carr, Senior Associate Solicitor, recently settled a secondary victim claim against Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust. The case involved medical negligence on behalf of the Trust which led to a patient taking her own life. Sadly the claimant witnessed the immediate aftermath of the death leading to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Shantala Carr, who regularly deals with medical negligence claims involving suicides and psychiatric injuries, comments as follows:

"No amount of compensation is sufficient in cases where a family has lost a loved one. Equally, no amount of compensation can undo what someone sees when they find their loved one having taken their own life. However, what a settlement does result in is a recognition by the defendant that they have caused the death of that loved one and that this has caused irreversible damage to the claimant. It highlights the failings within the mental health services and often leads to change in practices and protocols to try and avoid such incidences from happening to someone else.

Legally, secondary victim claims are incredibly difficult to win due to the complex restrictions that case law places on whether someone qualifies as a secondary victim. At its simplest, one has to prove that the answers are ‘yes’ to the following questions, in order to be classed as a secondary victim:

1.Was the claimant in a sufficiently close relationship of love and affection with the victim of the incident?
2.Was the incident sufficiently shocking, ie horrifying, sudden and exceptional?
3.Was the claimant in close proximity in space and time to the incident or its immediate aftermath?
4.Has the witnessing of the incident or its immediate aftermath led to a recognised psychiatric injury?

If you think you may have a secondary victim claim, please contact our Medical Negligence team on 01227 8282899.