Losing a loved one is tragic no matter the circumstances, but this can be compounded if the death is as a result of someone else’s fault, and often sudden deaths can result in financial difficulties for loved ones and families.
Claims for Fatal Injuries can be brought under the following Acts:-
a) The Law Reforms (Miscellaneous Provisions) 1934 (known as Estate claims), and;
b) The Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
THE LAW REFORMS (Miscellaneous Provisions) 1934:-
Claims brought under the aforementioned Act are claims that the Deceased could have brought themselves, had they survived the incident. Whilst each claim is different, essentially the heads of claim can be:-
General damages for any period of pain, suffering and loss of amenity. There is a section within the Judicial College Guidelines (Chapter 1) that details compensation awards for those who have survived for a period of up to 3 months; however case-law should also be referred to, particularly in cases where the period of survival has been prolonged. Each case should be considered on its own merits, it should be borne in mind that there is likely to have been extensive injuries and suffering resulting in death;
Loss of earnings;
Damaged clothing/items such as jewellery – in the deceased possession at the time of the incident;
Items that the family, etc. have purchased for the deceased during the period of survival;
Hospital expenses/travel expenses incurred by the family attending hospital.
Care and medication costs.
The above list is not exhaustive and a detailed conversation with the family at the right time will be required.
FATAL ACCIDENT ACT 1976:-
Again, whilst each case is different, typical claims brought under the Fatal Accident’s Act are:-
Funeral costs – to include the cost of the funeral, family travel and accommodation, paper notices, flowers and headstone costs.
Bereavement payment – as at 1st May 2020 this increased from £12,980.00 to £15,120.00. Therefore if the death occurred before May 2020 the sum of £12,980.00 is claimable, if the death was after 1st May 2020 the sum of £15,120.00 is claimable. The bereavement payment however is only payable to the spouse/common law partner of the Deceased; or the parents of a deceased minor (under the age of 18).
Loss of Dependency, financial and services:-
Firstly, who can be deemed a dependant? This may be:-
A spouse/ex-spouse if they remained dependent on the Deceased (for example for child welfare);
A person co-habiting with the deceased for at least 2 years prior to death;
Blood children/adopted children/children through marriage or civil partnerships;
Brothers, sisters, cousins, aunties and uncles, nieces and nephews.
A dependent will have to prove their dependency upon the deceased, whether that is financially or for services provided to them at the time of the deceased death.
This will often by the most substantial component of the claim being brought under the Fatal Accidents Act, and may include loss of income, loss of state pension and loss of private/occupation pensions. Also included can be loss of bonuses and employee perks such as use of a company car or mobile phone.
Services dependency covers the value of care and services that the Deceased would have provided to a Dependent at the time of their death and would have provided to the dependent into the future, such as childcare, DIY, gardening, housework or care to a dependent that is sick. We would look at the cost of replacement care or services, whether it is provided on a gratuitous basis in the future or whether outside services would be required, for example gardener, childcare providers, carers for sick dependents.
Financial and services claims can often be vast, and Defendant insurers will be looking at the life expectancy of both the Deceased and also the Dependent so see if they would have survived to “normal life expectancy” or whether there were any pre-existing medical conditions that would have cut short their life in any event.
Limitation – the time period for bringing a claim under the Law Reforms 1934 and Fatal Accident Act 1976 is 3 years from the date of death.