Secondary victim claims

Secondary victim claims

For finding answers and getting justice

Nobody should have to endure the trauma of witnessing a loved one's injury or death, but when it does happen the effects can be lasting and deeply personal. If you've been traumatised because of medical negligence suffered by someone close to you, you may be able to make a secondary victim claim.

As a secondary victim, you may find yourself dealing with psychiatric illnesses like serious depression or (PTSD). The legal complexities surrounding secondary victim claims can feel overwhelming, especially when you're already dealing with emotional turmoil. That's where Switalskis comes in.

Our approach to secondary victim claims isn't just about the legal process; it's about understanding your situation and supporting you through the whole process. Our aim will always be to secure the compensation you need to access the help you need to recover and move on with your life.

If you're facing the after-effects of witnessing a medical negligence incident affecting a loved one, don't hesitate to reach out to Switalskis.

Contact us today by calling 0800 1380 458, or contact us through the website. Together, we'll provide the support and expertise you need to investigate a successful secondary victim claim.

How Switalskis can help you

At Switalskis, we've dealt with many secondary victim cases, and we understand how distressing it can be for people in these situations. We are fully aware that it's a deeply personal matter that requires empathy and understanding.

Here's how we strive to support you in a secondary victim claim:

  • We'll gather all of the available evidence to help support your claim. This may include testimonies from independent medical experts and professionals with specific knowledge in secondary victim psychiatric illness claims.
  • We aim to make the process as simple as possible, breaking down complex terms and procedures into understandable language and answering all of your questions along the way.
  • We offer a range of funding options for secondary victim claims. We'll discuss these with you in detail to help you find a funding arrangement that suits you, as we want to make sure that nobody is prevented from pursuing justice due to financial concerns.

We have years of experience and have built a strong reputation for excellence in this field. Our team includes legal experts accredited by the Law Society and AvMA (Action Against Medical Accidents) , which highlights their industry-leading expertise.

We're committed to being a supportive presence throughout your legal journey. Contact us today and let us be your ally, guide and advocate in navigating the challenges of a secondary victim claim.

Read what our clients had to say about the help they received from Switalskis

What is a secondary victim claim?

A secondary victim claim is a legal option open to those who've suffered damage as a result of witnessing, or being closely connected to, an incident where a loved one was harmed or put in danger. This can be a highly stressful and potentially even traumatic experience, and can result in the person in question being left with a recognised psychiatric injury.

When it comes to medical negligence, a secondary victim might be someone who witnessed a medical error, mismanagement or failure in care that caused serious harm to someone close to them. For example, if a parent witnesses their child suffering due to a medical mistake, or a spouse witnesses harm to their partner due to a healthcare provider's negligence, they could be considered secondary victims.

The impact on secondary victims can be significant and long-lasting. Being exposed to the sudden and unexpected shock of witnessing such a horrific event can lead to chronic mental health problems and psychiatric injuries. These conditions might need therapy, counselling or other forms of treatment.

Secondary victim claims are complicated, and there are strict medical and legal criteria that must be met to establish that someone can be considered a secondary victim. As such, it's always best to speak to a specialist medical negligence solicitor to learn more about the best approach to investigating a claim.

What are the mental health impacts of being a secondary victim?

The mental health impacts of being a secondary victim, particularly in cases involving medical negligence, can be far-reaching and potentially last for many years. If you suffer psychiatric injury because you witnessed a loved one go through a traumatic medical event, it can impact your life in all sorts of ways:

  • Psychiatric disorders: some secondary victims may develop serious psychiatric disorders, such as PTSD, anxiety or depression. These conditions can significantly impact daily life, affecting everything from relationships to work, and may need long-term therapy or medication.
  • Emotional distress: the distress of seeing a loved one in pain or suffering from a preventable medical error can be overwhelming. This distress can create constant worry, sleep disturbances, or a pervasive sense of sadness or despair.
  • Strain on relationships: the emotional toll of being a secondary victim can strain relationships with other family members and friends. The intense focus on the affected loved one might lead to feelings of isolation or neglect among other family members, while friends may find it difficult to relate to the secondary victim's experience.
  • Impact on daily living: being a secondary victim can affect everyday activities and decision-making. This might lead to difficulties in focusing on work, enjoying hobbies, or engaging in social activities. The fear of something else going wrong could also become a pervasive thought, hampering your ability to live life fully.
  • Long-term effects: depending on the severity of the trauma, many secondary victims experience mental health impacts that last for years. You may find it difficult to overcome the emotional scars left by the shocking event and need support and treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the mental health effects of being a secondary victim, it's vital to seek medical advice as soon as you can. Support groups, counselling and therapy can provide the tools to understand and cope with these complex emotions. Making a secondary victim claim can also be a good way of obtaining the practical and financial support you need to aid your recovery.

What are secondary victim claim criteria?

Even by the normal standards of investigating a claim, establishing a secondary victim claim can be particularly complex. This is because there are very specific legal criteria that need to be met.

Here's a breakdown of what needs to be established to a pursue secondary victim claim linked to medical negligence cases:

  • Close ties of love and affection: the secondary victim must have a close relationship with the person injured (known as the primary victim), such as that of a spouse, parent or child. However, this doesn't strictly limit the claim to immediate family members.
  • Witnessing the event or immediate aftermath: the claimant must have witnessed the medical negligence event or its immediate aftermath in person. This could include seeing or hearing the incident, or coming upon the scene shortly after it happened.
  • Proximity in time and space: the secondary victim must have been in close proximity to both the event and the primary victim.
  • Psychiatric injury: the claimant must have suffered a recognised psychiatric injury as a direct result of witnessing the incident. General distress or emotional upset isn't enough; it must be a diagnosable psychiatric condition such as PTSD, serious depression or anxiety.
  • Causation: it must be clearly proven that the psychiatric injury was caused directly by witnessing the negligent act.
  • Foreseeability: the injury to the secondary victim must have been a foreseeable result of the defendant’s negligence. This might need an independent expert to prove that anyone with a normal level of fortitude would be likely to suffer psychiatric illness from witnessing such an incident.

Because these criteria are so specific, it's essential to get in touch with a specialist solicitor with experience in medical negligence case law to make sure that all the criteria has been considered.

How can I prove a secondary victim claim?

Proving a secondary victim claim requires you to submit substantial, solid evidence. This might include the following:

  • Medical evidence: comprehensive medical records and evaluations that confirm that you've suffered psychiatric injury, and provide full details on the specific conditions. Any psychiatric injury will also need to be directly attributable to the traumatic incident you witnessed.
  • Therapy or counselling records: if you've sought therapy or counselling since the incident, securing notes or records from these sessions can further support your claim.
  • Witness statements: statements from yourself and/or witnesses who can confirm your presence and your reaction at the time of the incident will help to establish a direct connection between the negligence and your mental health issues.
  • Details of the negligence: records, reports or testimonies that detail the exact nature of the medical negligence will not only help to establish the primary claim but can also support a claim for the trauma you have experienced.
  • Proof of relationship: documents or statements that provide evidence of your close relationship with the primary victim will be needed. This is particularly important if you aren't a member of the immediate family.
  • Timeline of events: you may need to create a detailed timeline that shows when the negligence happened, when you witnessed it or its immediate aftermath, and how your symptoms developed over time.
  • Personal journals or diaries: if you've kept personal notes, journals or diaries detailing your emotions, mental state and the challenges faced since the incident, these can serve as useful evidence of what you've been going through.

Remember, while the burden of proof lies with you, a qualified solicitor can guide you in gathering the right evidence, structuring your claim, and making your case as strong as possible.

What is the process for making a secondary victim claim?

Anyone who suffers psychiatric injury after witnessing a traumatic event might feel overwhelmed when making a legal claim. With Switalskis by your side, we aim to reduce that burden with straightforward legal advice and support.

Here's a breakdown of the process:

Step 1: Initial consultation

Contact Switalskis for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. During this meeting, we’ll listen to your story and your concerns and explain whether we think you have a strong case. If we decide to proceed, we can then discuss the next steps and the available funding options.

Step 2: Establishing your claim

We’ll gather all the relevant information and evidence you need to build your case. This will include applying for all of your medical records, including your GP records. We’ll ask you for photographs, receipts and any other documents that may support your claim. We will take detailed witness statements to tell your version of events. We may arrange for you to be assessed by an independent medical expert to provide an unbiased view of your injuries and future prognosis and establish whether the negligence was responsible for your injury and consider the potential value of the claim.

Step 3: Notifying the defendant

Once we have supportive evidence, we’ll send a letter of claim to the doctor and/or hospital (the defendant) involved. This will outline details of the claim and put forward the allegations relating to the negligent treatment.

Step 4: Defendant response

The defendant will then have four months to investigate the allegations made against them and respond, in writing, to the letter of claim. This is known as a letter of response. The letter will include whether the defendant accepts they are at fault. If they do, this is called an admission of liability. If they do not accept fault, they will state this in the letter and this is called a denial of liability. We will advise you of the next steps at this stage.

Step 5: Settlement and compensation

If the defendant admits liability, negotiations on settlement and compensation can start. Our clinical negligence solicitors will negotiate on your behalf, using our expertise and experience to secure compensation for you. At this stage, we will discuss how much compensation you may receive and any risks in the case. Compensation is calculated to cover the pain and suffering caused, as well as any financial losses or expenses you’ve experienced as a result of the negligence.

Step 6: Court proceedings (where necessary)

Most claims will be settled through negotiation, without needing to go to court. In the rare instance where a case does go to trial, you can trust us to advise and represent you throughout the process.

At every stage, Switalskis will keep you updated, answer your questions, and make sure that the whole process is well-managed and you’re well-informed.

Is there a time limit on making a secondary victim claim?

Generally, you have three years from the date of the traumatic event, or the date when you first became aware of your psychiatric illness, to initiate a claim. This is known as the limitation period, and it's vital to act within this timeframe to make sure you don't miss any deadlines.

However, there are exceptions to this rule:

  • Children: if the person who suffered the negligence is under 18 at the time, the three-year period doesn’t start until their 18th birthday. This means they have until they turn 21 to start legal proceedings.
  • Mental capacity: if the person who suffered the negligence lacks mental capacity, which prevents them from managing their own affairs, there will not be any time limit within which to start proceedings.
  • Fatal cases: if you’re claiming on behalf of a deceased family member who passed away due to witnessing the traumatic event , the claim must be made within three years of the date of death, or the date of knowledge of the person representing the deceased’s estate that negligent treatment caused their death.

Understanding the time constraints and how to navigate them can be difficult, especially when dealing with the emotional toll of a traumatic event. Speak to Switalskis as soon as possible, and we can help make sure that you're aware of all the relevant time limits, and explain any necessary steps to protect your position ahead of any relevant deadlines.

How much could my secondary victim claim be worth?

Determining the value of a secondary victim claim can be a complex process, as it relies on various factors specific to your unique situation. These include:

  • The extent of the mental or emotional trauma you experienced
  • Any loss of earnings (if you've had to take time off work), as well as costs related to therapy, counselling, and other forms of treatment
  • The impact on your lifestyle, relationships and day-to-day life
  • Any existing legal precedents and guidelines on how much compensation to award for cases like yours
  • The outcome of the negotiations with the defending party
  • Any relevant legal costs and funding arrangements

By speaking to the team at Switalskis, we'll be able to assess the specific details of your case and provide further information on how compensation is calculated.

How are secondary victim claims funded?

Pursuing a secondary victim claim shouldn’t be a financial burden. At Switalskis, we understand that the process of seeking compensation can be stressful, especially when considering the potential legal costs involved. As such, we offer various funding options tailored to your individual circumstances.

  • No win, no fee agreement: also known as a ‘conditional fee agreement’ (CFA), this is the most common way to fund a secondary victim claim. Under a no win, no fee agreement, you won’t need to pay anything if your claim is unsuccessful. Our costs are written off. If you win your case, a percentage of your compensation will be used to cover our fees and this amount is capped. This option allows you to pursue your claim without any financial risk, and we’ll discuss all of the potential costs with you upfront to avoid any surprises.
  • Legal expenses insurance: you may have legal expenses cover as part of your home or car insurance policy, which can be used to fund your claim. We’ll assist you in understanding your policy and liaise with your insurer if you have such cover. If you don’t already have legal expenses cover, we will take out an insurance policy on your behalf to cover you for out-of-pocket expenses experienced during the investigation. 
  • Legal aid: in very rare cases, Legal Aid may be available for clinical negligence claims, although it’s usually reserved for specific situations. Our team can discuss eligibility with you.

We'll take the time to explore all available options with you and find the best solution to fit your needs.

How long do secondary victim claims take?

Predicting the exact length of a secondary victim claim can be difficult because every claim is unique, and various factors can influence the outcome. On average, secondary victim claims might take anywhere from a year to several years to resolve, depending on the specifics of the case.

This will all depend on the complexity of the evidence required, and whether there are any disputes or challenges from the defendant's side. Additionally, if a claim goes to court, the court's schedule and the availability of all parties involved can add to the time it takes.

At Switalskis, we make it our priority to move your claim forward efficiently, but without compromising on the thoroughness and quality of our investigation. Our dedicated team will keep you updated as we strive to achieve a satisfactory resolution as quickly as possible.

Contact us today and let's start your journey towards recovery together. Call us today on 0800 1380 458, or get in touch via our form.

Our secondary victim claims specialists

Photo of Suzanne Munroe
Suzanne MunroeDirector and Solicitor
Photo of Sarah Walker
Sarah WalkerDirector and Solicitor
Photo of Charlotte Reeves
Charlotte ReevesDirector and Solicitor
Photo of Kay Barnes
Kay BarnesDirector and Solicitor
Photo of David Thomas
David ThomasDirector and Chartered Legal Executive
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Why Switalskis?

We understand that making a secondary victim claim following a traumatic experience might feel overwhelming and draining. These claims can be very complicated, and you may be dealing with emotional challenges alongside legal ones. At Switalskis, we'll guide you through these unfamiliar and demanding times in the following ways:

Clarity in complexity

Secondary victim claims might seem daunting, but with us, they don't have to be. We’re committed to translating all of the legal terminology into clear and understandable language, and we'll be there to answer all your questions, simplify the process, and make sure you're fully informed every step of the way.

Empathy at every step

We invest the time to understand your unique circumstances, and provide advice that caters to your emotional needs, as well as your legal requirements. You're more than just a client to us - you're a person facing an incredibly tough time, and we're right here by your side to offer our support.

Expertise you can trust

Dealing with secondary victim claims needs specialised knowledge and care. Our team includes experienced professionals who are recognised as specialists in the field, and we have a history of successfully handling secondary victim claims like yours.

Championing your rights

Our passion for justice extends beyond the courtroom. We're not only driven to secure the compensation you deserve, but are also committed to holding those responsible to account. In doing so, we can help make sure the right lessons are learned from your experience, and that others can be safeguarded in the future.

We can support you in the following medical negligence situations

Find out how Switalskis can help you

If you or a loved one have been psychologically impacted as a secondary victim, particularly in a case of medical negligence, it's essential to seek professional support and consider pursuing justice. Switalskis is here to guide you through this process and obtain the outcome you deserve.

Contact Switalskis today by calling 0800 138 0458 , or get in touch with us through the website to discuss your concerns in confidence with a legal specialist who is experienced in secondary victim compensation claims.

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