Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

The Value of a Childs Life and the Fight for Justice of Families of Children Killed by Hospital Blunders

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 21/09/2015

The tragedy of Megan Storey and Jordanna Goodwin, both 16, who died along with three teenage friends in a car crash at Conisbrough, South Yorkshire highlights the sickeningly low amount of the statutory bereavement damages awarded in England and Wales for the wrongful death of a child of only £12,980.00.

Governments disgraceful valuation of the worth of a child's life

The Government has assessed the award over the years for the loss of a child in the current sum which is pitifully low. No amount of money can compensate for the loss of a child but for the Government to suggest that the wrongful death of a child is one which is only worth a "token amount" of less than £13,000.00 is a public disgrace.

Tracey Storey, Megan's mother said "This is not about being greedy and seeking more money, as no amount of money can compensate for the loss of Megan or Jordanna. It is about the injustice of the way the system works". She has since launched an e-petition to have the law changed.

A Leading Medical Negligence Lawyer at Simpson Millar says "How can a dead child, according to law, be worth £12,980.00 whilst celebrities can be compensated over £200,000.00 for hurt feelings? Is that really the value which we as a society place on a child's life? In Scotland there is no maximum limit set for bereavement compensation as the merits for each death are considered on a case by case basis and there have been awards of £100,000.00."

In the wake of the investigation into the Morecombe Bay NHS Trust Baby Death scandal Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is proposing a scheme which blatantly takes advantage of the low bereavement award in England and Wales for the wrongful death of a child to deny families of children killed by hospital blunders access to Justice. The Morecombe Bay investigation exposed a "lethal mix" of failings at almost every level which led to the unnecessary deaths of one mother and 11 babies in a maternity unit of a Cumbrian Hospital and found maternity services beset by a culture of denial, collusion and incompetence. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who ironically ordered the investigation in 2013, now proposes new legislation which will effectively mean the end to any claim brought against a Hospital when a child is killed by negligent care.

We are calling for an increase in the level of bereavement damages to £100,000.00 to ensure access to Justice is maintained says "Mr Hunt's proposed scheme, which is to cap the costs of families making claims against Hospitals when children are killed by negligent care seeks to take advantage of the sickeningly low sum awarded for the death of a child in England and Wales. Mr Hunt knows that when a Hospital decides to fight a families claim to a contested Trial, which they often do, Court, experts and lawyers fees can easily top £200,000.00. That is not the families fault if they are forced to take a Hospital to Court because it unreasonably refuses to accept responsibility for the death which has occurred. Mr Hunt's scheme would mean that a family winning a case against a Hospital will not be able to recover more than a fixed percentage of the damages awarded for their legal costs. If the percentage is fixed at say 50% of the present bereavement damages award, the family would only recover £6,490.00 against the actual cost of £200,000.00. His scheme will effectively end claims brought by families on behalf of children, such as those highlighted by the Morecombe Bay NHS Trust Baby Death Scandal, by creating a two-tier system of Justice in the UK, one for the rich and one for the poor, the latter offering little or no Justice at all. Only the rich, who can afford to spend money on legal costs which will no longer be recoverable from a Defendant will be able to obtain access to Justice under Mr Hunts scheme for the wrongful death of a child. It's a public scandal."

A recent survey by legal marketing agency RTS Media and endorsed by patient charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) graphically illustrates the point. The survey found that should a cap on legal fees be introduced, 83% of specialist medical negligence lawyers are likely to opt against representing families with claims worth less than £25,000.00 in damages. This effectively means the majority of claims involving deaths of children caused by hospital negligence.

"If failings in medical care are no longer highlighted by families, as they are now, Doctors will continue to make mistakes and more children will die".

"We need only look at James Titcombe, a man whose campaign over the death of his newborn son led to the damming Morecombe Bay investigation report. Mr Titcombe's son Joshua, died 9 days after he was born at Furness General in 2008. He refused to accept the explanations from Health bosses as to what went wrong and pressed for a full enquiry. He successfully argued for an inquest to take place which, in 2011 heard Midwives repeatedly missed chances to spot and treat a serious infection which led to Joshua's death. The resulting publicity led to other families sharing their experiences of the Hospital's Maternity Unit and their demands for answers led to Mr Hunt setting up the independent Morecombe Bay enquiry. If Mr Hunt now wants to initiate a scheme which uses the monetary value of a claim arising from the wrongful death of a child as the bench mark for its importance then the statutory amount fixed for bereavement damages must be increased right away from its present level of only £12,980 to at least £100,000.00. If it's not, and Mr Hunt has his way, families of children killed by negligent Hospital care will be forever denied access to justice"

Government wants it both ways

"Mr Hunt and the Government cannot be permitted to have it both ways. They cannot, on the one hand say that whether a family of a dead child should have access to justice should be dictated by the monetary value of the claim and then, on the other hand, deliberately depress the value of such claims with the appallingly low value which they have themselves placed on a child's life. Mr Hunt should not be allowed to take advantage of this sickening situation."

"We have represented grieving and bereaved families who have lost children because of negligent hospital care for more than 20 years and can say that these cases are never, ever motivated by compensation. The family want answers for the death which has occurred and an acceptance of responsibility from the Doctors who treated their son or daughter for the part that they have played in the death where appropriate. They also want to make sure that such a tragedy never strikes another family. If Mr Hunt is to introduce a scheme which will deny such families access to Justice on the grounds the bereavement award is so low then the Government must increase it, its as simple as that"

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