Fatal Accident Claims – A Brief Guide
According to a report produced by the Health and Safety Executive in July 2019, a total of 147 workers were killed in Great Britain in the year 2018/1029. Put in another way, that means that approximately 3 people die every week as a result of an accident in the workplace, or as a result of doing their job, wherever the accident happens.
Fatal accidents can happen in many other circumstances too – as a result of medical negligence, or due to a public liability accident
Not all fatal accidents are someone other than the deceased’s fault. When they are though, people do turn to specialist personal injury solicitors to help them. In this blog, we explain why they do this, what we as accident injury solicitors can do for them, who can claim and how they can start the process of making a fatal accident claim.
Fatal Accident Claims Solicitors
We have dealt with all severities of personal injury claims over many years. The ones that we find the most upsetting are those claims where we are asked to act on behalf of families who have lost a loved one in a fatal accident. We are human beings. We never ‘get used’ to dealing with fatal cases. Losing a loved one is the worst thing that can happen to anyone. Our solicitors have to draw on all of their professional experience and skill when dealing with these types of claims, to ensure that we do our very best for people whose lives have been torn apart.
At the same time, we carry out our work, totally mindful of the situation that our clients find themselves when they come to see us, and our approach is an entirely empathetic one.
What Compensation Can be Claimed following a Fatal Accident?
If someone dies in a road traffic accident that was caused by another party to the accident, you would be forgiven for thinking that the compensation for pain and suffering that the deceased’s family could expect to recover in a compensation claim would be of a significant amount. This isn’t the case. So just what can the families of the victims of fatal accidents claim?
In addition to the funeral expense and other losses incurred prior to the deceased’s death, such as medical bills if they survived for a period of time after the accident. If the deceased survived for a period of time after the accident, there may be a claim for pain and suffering. The amount of compensation for this will vary depending on the length of time that they lived after the accident. If the death was instant, then there is, sadly, no claim for compensation for pain and suffering.
Relatives of the deceased may be entitled to make a claim for a Bereavement Award. This kind of compensation came about through an Act of Parliament called the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
The family members of the deceased who can make a claim for a bereavement award following a fatal accident caused by someone else, are:
- The wife, husband or civil partner of the deceased
- Parent or parents (but only the mother if the parents were unmarried)
The deceased’s children are not able to make a claim for this award.
The bereavement award is a fixed amount that is reviewed from time to time. Currently, it is £12,980.
What is a Claim for Dependency?
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976, mentioned above, also tells us who is entitled to make a claim for compensation, on the basis that they were financially dependent on the deceased.
The people who the Fatal Accident Act defines as ‘dependents’ are;
- the wife or husband or former wife or former husband of the deceased;
- the civil partner or former civil partner of the deceased
- any person who;
(i) was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death; and
(ii) had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before that date; and
(iii) was living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased;
- any parent or other ascendant of the deceased;
- any person who was treated by the deceased as his parent;
- any child or other descendant of the deceased;
- any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any marriage to which the deceased was at any time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage;
- any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any civil partnership in which the deceased was at any time a civil partner, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that civil partnership
- any person who is, or is the issue of, a brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased.
None of the classes of people listed above has an automatic right to claim compensation for dependency. They have to be able to prove that they had ‘a reasonable expectation of benefit from the person continuing to live’. The deceased’s widow who depended on her late husband’s income to financially look after herself and her children would satisfy the requirements. However, a child who was over 18 and who worked and lived away from home, would probably not be able to claim.
Types of Claim for Dependency
- Past financial losses e.g. loss of earnings, loss of pension from the date of the fatal accident through to settlement of the claim for compensation.
- Future loss of earnings. The ongoing losses in the future, after the claim, has settled. This calculation can be a complex one.
- Loss of services – this is compensation for other services the deceased carried out for the family. DIY or gardening are often quoted as examples of the type of thing that might come under this category. It is very much based on evidence of the type of service the deceased carried out during their lifetime on behalf of the family.
How long is there to bring a claim for fatal accident compensation?
Generally, it is up to three years from the date of death. It is advisable to take advice on this, as the position may alter if there is quite a significant period between the person being involved in the accident and subsequently dying as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.
Surely making a Claim Is the last thing on the minds of the bereaved?
Certainly, when a family loses someone that they love very much, the immediate thoughts and feelings are those of pure grief and loss. Many of us have lost family members, some as a result of fatal accidents, so we are well aware that that’s the case.
However, in cases where the main breadwinner of the family has gone, financial reality hits very quickly. Indeed, with everything else that they have to deal with, including organising and paying for a funeral, financial worries can be a burden that becomes all-encompassing for those left behind.
Many of the bereaved that we have helped in these circumstances find that taking positive steps to start a claim, in some way helps. Certainly, knowing that they are doing something aimed at alleviating any financial distress that they may be starting to suffer, sometimes gives them some comfort.
Mooneerams can be contacted on 029 2048 3615 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You will find more information about us at www.mooneerams.com and if you prefer, you can contact us online via the website.
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Director / Solicitor
Angus has been a well-known and respected Personal Injury Solicitor for over 20 years and has been a Director at Mooneerams Solicitors since 2015. He specialises in the more complex personal injury cases.