News and Publications

Sepsis – support for patients and their relatives

Posted: 13/03/2023

When someone suffers from sepsis, the impact on their family and loved ones can be significant and far-reaching. This article focuses on the support available under these circumstances, as well as how to investigate a claim on behalf of someone else.

Why is support for relatives important?

Depending on the severity, sepsis can be life-changing. Some survivors of sepsis have physical limitations, such as amputations, and require a great deal of support getting used to their new disability. For others, the after effects are more psychological in nature, and often sepsis survivors have mental health concerns such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) to work through. Patients may well require both practical and emotional support from their families.

The loved ones of a sepsis survivor may also have suffered themselves from the psychological impact of seeing a family member go through such a traumatic time. Sadly, sepsis can be fatal, and so if a family member passes away as a result of sepsis, then this will of course have a huge impact on their family.

What support is available to relatives?

The UK Sepsis Trust is a charity that supports people who have had sepsis and their families. Its website contains information and guidance as well as further contact details for relatives and loved ones of sepsis survivors.

Making a claim as a family member

Sometimes, a patient who has suffered sepsis may believe that the condition was not diagnosed or treated promptly or correctly, and that this worsened their illness. If this is the case, they may look into instructing a solicitor to investigate a clinical negligence claim.

Often, someone who has survived sepsis may instruct a solicitor themselves. However, sometimes this is not possible, and assistance is available for families in this situation.

Bringing a claim on behalf of a child
If the person who has suffered from sepsis is under 18, they cannot instruct a solicitor themselves, but an adult, such as a parent or guardian, can do so on their behalf. The adult would be known as the ‘litigation friend’ of the child and would make all the decisions about the claim. If the child turns 18 during the claim, they can then take over providing instructions.  

Claiming for someone who does not have mental capacity
Some adults do not have the mental capacity to instruct a solicitor to investigate a claim for them. For example, they may have a mental or learning disability, have suffered a brain injury, or have a condition that affects their ability to make decisions for themselves. If this is the case, a family member or other appropriate person may be able to instruct a solicitor to investigate a claim on their behalf, and again they will act as their litigation friend.

Helping someone to make their own claim
If an adult survivor has the ability to instruct a solicitor, but they would like someone else to handle the day to day conduct of the claim, this can be arranged. The person whose claim it is will be able to sign a form of authority, allowing the solicitor to liaise directly with their nominated person about the claim.

Claiming for someone who has passed away
If the person who had sepsis has sadly died, a claim can be brought by their estate and/or their dependants (for example, their child or spouse). There are specific rules about who can bring a claim if someone has died, so, if this is the case, it is best to seek legal advice to find out the options.

Making a claim for your own emotional suffering
If your family member has suffered from sepsis, there is very limited ability to claim for the emotional consequences that you have been through as a result of their illness. In some cases, a claim can be brought if you have suffered from a psychiatric injury as a result of witnessing a sudden, shocking event, such as a death. Such cases are quite limited in scope and difficult to establish, however. If you think this may be the case for you, it is best to seek legal advice to see if a claim could be brought.

Arrow GIFReturn to news headlines

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP