Fatal accident- a guide to what you can claim

Penelope Byers,  17th August, 2018

If a loved one has been involved in a fatal accident whether it be on the roads, at work or as a result of clinical negligence the thought of making a legal claim may seem particularly distressing at what will already be a very difficult time. There is no sum of money which could ever be awarded to even begin to compensate you for your loss.

At a time when you feel like your world has come crashing down around you, the reality of day to day life may feel particularly daunting. As well as mourning the loss of your loved one, the cold light of day may also bring with it financial worries about how you will cope in the future without your loved one by your side.

If you are ever faced with this dreadful situation, when you are ready you may wish to speak to a solicitor for guidance through what may be seen to be a minefield to making a legal claim.


This is a brief overview of the types of claims which can be made

Where an accident has occurred and someone has died as a result, a claim can be made on behalf of their estate or if a person has been financially dependent upon the deceased then that person may be able to claim in their own right against the person who was responsible for the accident.


Bereavement Award

Separate and in addition to the above, The Fatal Accident Act 1976 introduced a statutory sum, called the Bereavement Award, which would be paid to certain close relatives in limited situations. This is a one-off payment which is currently for the sum of £12,980.

The Bereavement Award can only be claimed if you are the husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased at the time of their death. Alternatively, if the deceased was a child (i.e. under the age of 18) who was never married or in a civil partnership, then the payment would be made to both parents if the deceased was legitimate or only to the mother if the deceased was illegitimate.


Dependency Claim

The Fatal Accident Act also allows for someone who may have relied upon the deceased, prior to their death to make a claim. This is a Dependency Claim.

To bring a claim against the person who was responsible for the accident, the dependant must be able to show that they have or will have suffered a loss and also demonstrate that they had a reasonable expectation that they would have received such a benefit if the deceased continued to live.

The type of loss in this instance, which can potentially give rise to a claim include not only financial matters such as loss of prospective earnings or prospective pension but also takes account of non-financial matters as well as it recognises that the deceased is likely to have played a bigger role in family life other than just as a wage earner. Amongst other things claims can be made for anticipated gifts e.g. for a child’s birthday or services provided by the deceased around the house such as DIY or household chores.

A claim for dependency is different to the Bereavement Award and as such, different criteria need to be fulfilled.

To pursue a Dependency claim, the dependant needs to be:

  • Husband, wife or civil partner (including former spouse or former civil partner)
  • A person who lived with the deceased for at least two years at the date of death and lived during the whole of this period as husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased
  • Parent or a person treated by the deceased as a parent at the date of death
  • A child of the deceased, or a person treated as a child of the family in the case of marriage/civil partnership, who was not actually a child of the deceased
  • Brother, sister, uncle or aunt or their children i.e. including cousin or niece/nephews


Claim on behalf of the Deceased’s Estate

As well as the above claims a claim can also be made on behalf of the deceased’s estate under the Law Reform Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1934. This allows the personal claim, which the deceased could potentially have pursued if they were still alive to be preserved and includes, amongst other things, the following:

  • The injury sustained, and the suffering caused. This also takes into account the suffering caused by becoming aware that they are not likely to survive their injuries.
  • Loss of earnings from the date of injury to death
  • Care from the date of injury to death
  • Medical/travel expenses
  • Funeral expenses which will not include the cost of the wake or a memorial

These claims will be made by the Executor of the deceased’s estate and will be payable to the Estate for the benefit of the beneficiaries.


Probate

If a loved one has died as a result of an accident then it is likely that the insurance company paying the claim will require a grant of probate where the deceased had a will or letters of administration if there is no will before they will pay out any money.

In this case, our personal injury team will liaise closely with our specialist probate team who can be instructed separately by you to assist and guide you through the process of obtaining a grant of probate.


Time for making a claim

The time for making a claim is called the ‘Limitation Period’ and in fatal accident claims this is generally calculated 3 years from the date of death. However, this may change if the deceased survived for a period of time after the accident. Also, this may change depending on how or where the accident happened, for instance if the accident occurred on water, in the air, or as a result of a criminal injury, then the limitation period will normally be 2 years, instead of 3 years.

This guide provides a summary of the types of claim which can be made in the awful event that you need to consider making a fatal accident claim. By instructing us we aim to make this complex process as simple and easy as possible for you and provide the help and support needed during this incredibly difficult time.


Need advice? We can help you

Call Nathalie Stewart or Penelope Byers on 01482 324252 for a no-obligation chat.

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