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Medical Negligence

Sepsis compensation claims

June 20, 2024

If you or a loved one has had sepsis that could have been avoided, you might be entitled to financial compensation. Here, we explain all you need to know about sepsis, from the symptoms and causes to treatment.

We also explore what a sepsis claim involves and how to work with a solicitor if you’re entitled to compensation.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis, also known as blood poisoning, is a serious and life-threatening condition. It happens when our body overreacts to an infection and ends up harming its own tissues or organs.

Normally, our immune system fights infections to keep us healthy, but with sepsis, our body’s immune system has an extreme response and infection-fighting processes turn against the body.

The initial infection can be bacterial, viral, or fungal and can start out as something relatively mild like a chest or urinary tract infection (UTI).

Sepsis can progress rapidly. It has three stages: sepsis, severe sepsis, and septic shock. If sepsis is not treated early, it can turn into septic shock and cause your organs to fail, which can be life threatening.

Who is most at risk of getting sepsis?

Anyone can get sepsis but those particularly at risk are:

  • Infants and older adults.
  • People over 75 years old.
  • People with diabetes, weakened immune systems, or genetic disorders that affect the immune system.
  • Individuals who have recently had a serious illness or undergone surgery.
  • Women who have recently had a baby, miscarriage, or abortion.

Other people potentially at risk include:

  • Very frail individuals.
  • People who misuse intravenous drugs or alcohol.
  • Individuals with indwelling lines or catheters.
  • People with cuts, burns, or operative wounds.
  • Pregnant women or those postpartum, especially after a Caesarean section or forceps delivery.

Typical signs of sepsis

Sepsis symptoms can be similar to other conditions like the flu or chest infection. Someone with sepsis might only have one, or a few, of these symptoms.

Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Body swelling: Oedema happens when your body retains fluid in an attempt to stop infection.
  • Increased heart rate: Tachycardia can happen because your body tries to maintain the flow of blood to your vital organs.
  • Oliguria (reduced urination): Sepsis can impair organ function, including the kidneys, leading to decreased urine production.
  • Fever and chills: These are common immune responses to infections including sepsis and they present as a high temperature and shivering.
  • Difficulty breathing: This is because of impaired lung function and means you might have rapid or laboured breathing.
  • Mental confusion: Reduced blood and oxygen flow to the brain can lead to confusion and altered mental status.
  • Rapid breathing: Hyperventilation may happen as your body attempts to correct for metabolic acidosis, which can happen with sepsis.

Sepsis signs in children

In addition, younger children, and babies under the age of one might have these possible signs of sepsis:

  • Changes in skin: This could show as blue, grey, pale, or blotchy skin, lips, or tongue. Changes like these are often easier to spot on the palms of hands or soles of feet.
  • Persistent rash: Similar to the meningitis test, this rash does not fade when a glass is rolled over it. Seek immediate medical attention if your child has this symptom.
  • Difficulty breathing: Your child may appear to be breathless or be breathing too quickly.
  • Weak, high-pitched cry: This will sound different from their normal cry, often more shrill and weaker than usual which is a clear sign of distress or discomfort.
  • Unresponsiveness or lack of interest: Your child may not be interested in playing with you or their toys. They may also not want feeding.
  • Excessive sleepiness or difficulty waking: They might sleep for longer than usual or be unusually drowsy, a typical sign of when someone is fighting a severe infection.

Sepsis can be harder to spot in babies and young children, people with dementia or a learning difficulty, or those that have trouble communicating.

After an acute sepsis episode, some people also experience post-sepsis syndrome (PSS). PSS symptoms include long-term lethargy, muscle weakness, joint pain, breathlessness, depression, and anxiety.

How is sepsis treated?

Healthcare providers usually use a combination of methods to diagnose and treat sepsis. These can include a physical examination, blood tests, X-rays, and other tests.

Once sepsis has been confirmed, it needs to be treated quickly, often within an intensive care setting (ICU).

Treatments commonly used include:

  • Antibiotics to fight the infections caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi, or viruses that are driving sepsis.
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids to ensure your organs receive sufficient blood flow and to stop a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
  • Vasopressor medications to raise and sustain your blood pressure to a safe level.
  • Supportive care such as dialysis if your kidneys are not functioning properly or mechanical ventilation if you are having difficulty breathing.
  • Surgical operations to remove damaged tissues, eliminate the infection and stop it from spreading further.

Can you make a sepsis claim for medical negligence?

You might be able to make a sepsis compensation claim if you became ill from sepsis due to medical negligence. This could be if your sepsis was not identified or treated quickly enough, or if the progression to developing sepsis may have been prevented if the right care had been in place.

Compensation you receive from a sepsis claim should cover the suffering you’ve experienced, as well as any financial impact, such as costs associated with ongoing medical treatments, adaptations to living conditions, and loss of earnings. The likelihood is that a sepsis claim would be considered as part of a wider medical negligence enquiry. If this is the case, your lawyer will talk you through the process and what you might expect.

Sadly sepsis can cause death if not treated earlier or effectively enough. Family members might also be able to claim compensation if a loved one has died due to medical negligence. This is known as a wrongful death claim.

How much time do I have to claim?

It is important to seek legal advice as soon as you can because there are time limits to filing medical negligence claims.

These are typically within three years of the incident that caused the condition or from when the potential malpractice or negligence was discovered​.

There are some exceptions, for example if a case involves a child or a person who lacks mental capacity.

Why choose Fletchers Solicitors?

We know from dealing with clients that the physical and emotional impact of sepsis can be severe. We also know that, after the experience you’ve been through, the idea of claiming compensation can seem incredibly stressful.

For many clients though, receiving recognition for what they’ve been through — and the medical costs they’ve incurred — is an important part of the recovery process.

You’ll be with one of the leading legal firms when it comes to securing sepsis compensation payouts in the UK.

The Fletchers Solicitors has over 400 combined years of experience working on personal injury and medical negligence claims for our clients. We are one of the Times newspaper’s Best Law Firms and are recognised by the prestigious Legal 500 and Chambers organisations.

Sepsis claims

Recent cases involving sepsis where we have represented clients include:

  • Stephanie: Stephanie experienced intra-abdominal sepsis and two other serious medical conditions (avoidable laparotomies and a sigmoid colectomy) after surgeons failed to notice and repair a serosal tear during her operation. This led to her also experiencing PTSD and requiring psychotherapy. Following Fletchers’ intervention, Stephanie received £50,000 in compensation.

Sepsis claim experts

The Fletchers Solicitors team includes some of the country’s leading medical negligence legal experts.

If you choose our firm to represent you, colleagues like Natasha Kular, Abi Fletcher, and Jessica Sparham and their teams will build your case and be your friendly, first point of contact.

To let us know what happened to you and to start your sepsis claim, please call 0330 013 0247, visit our contact page, or complete the form.

Frequently asked questions

What is the biggest concern with sepsis?

The biggest concern with sepsis is that a healthcare professional is able to diagnose and treat it in time. Sepsis causes damage to tissues and organs which can lead to shock, multiple organ failure and sometimes death.

There are also possible complications from sepsis such as kidney failure, gangrene requiring amputation, permanent lung damage as a result of acute respiratory distress syndrome, and permanent brain damage resulting in memory problems or more severe symptoms.

What is the NHS protocol for sepsis?

Sepsis needs diagnosing and treating quickly. The UK Sepsis Trust developed the ‘Sepsis Six’. This is a series of six tasks, including oxygen, cultures, antibiotics, fluids, lactate measurement and urine output monitoring- to be put into place within an hour of arrival at hospital.

How many people get sepsis every year?

In the UK, some 245,000 people are affected by sepsis with at least 48,000 people losing their lives in sepsis-related illnesses every year. This is more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer combined. Globally, sepsis claims 11 million lives a year.

How many people die from sepsis each year?

Sepsis kills more people than lung cancer, bowel cancer, and breast cancer combined. The UK Sepsis Trust says that around 48,000 deaths are attributed to sepsis annually in the UK.

Related information and guides

For more information on sepsis and sepsis claims, please visit the following resources from Fletchers Solicitors: