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Parents Pursue 'Secondary Victim' Claims After Daughter's Shocking Death

If you have suffered psychiatric injury due to witnessing a loved one's shocking injury or death, you may be entitled to compensation and should contact a solicitor straight away. A case on point concerned a couple whose beloved daughter collapsed and died following a negligent failure to diagnose a life-threatening medical condition.

The couple consulted GPs on more than one occasion after their daughter suffered a series of unexplained episodes characterised by shortness of breath, a racing pulse and very cold extremities. She was twice referred to hospital. Prior to her second hospital appointment, however, she collapsed while at school.

Her father was present at the time and attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Her mother was contacted and, after running to the school, saw her lying on the floor, not breathing. Both of them witnessed paramedics fighting to save her. They travelled with her in an ambulance to hospital, where attempts to revive her failed. As a result of those events, both parents said that they had since suffered severe psychiatric symptoms, including major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

After they took action, an NHS trust accepted that, several months before their daughter's death, there had been a negligent failure to diagnose the condition that caused her death. The trust nevertheless argued that her parents' compensation claims in respect of their own psychiatric injuries stood no realistic prospect of success and should be struck out.

Rejecting that argument, however, the High Court noted that the girl's collapse was a sudden event that led very rapidly to her death. It was an event that would have been horrifying to any close family member who witnessed it, especially her parents. Her final collapse could be appropriately described as a consequence of the trust's admitted negligence.

Despite the continuous nature of the girl's condition and the lapse of time between the diagnostic failure and her death, it was properly arguable that her parents were sufficiently proximate to the admitted negligence to be viewed as secondary victims. Their claims were not bound to fail and the Court ruled that they should proceed to a full trial.