Fatal Accident Compensation
The death of a loved one in a fatal accident is a highly traumatic experience, and claiming fatal accident compensation is understandably not a priority for grieving relatives. When a loved one dies it naturally places an incredible emotional strain on the family of the victim. Devastated family members have to cope with a terrible personal loss, but if the main breadwinner is killed in a tragic accident, financial difficulties also have to be overcome. Making a claim for fatal accident compensation may not initially be a priority, but it can rapidly become a necessity.
No amount of fatal accident compensation will be able to make up for the death of a loved one; however compensation can ensure that grieving relatives do not have to also deal with an overwhelming financial burden. Fatal accident compensation will help the bereaved to concentrate solely on coming to terms with their personal loss.
Eligibility to Claim Fatal Accident Compensation
The family of the bereaved may be entitled to make a claim for fatal accident compensation, providing that the victim was not primarily responsible for causing the accident in which they lost their life. In order for a fatal accident claim to be made, it is necessary to demonstrate that the accident was due to a wrongful act, or that a third party caused the accident either deliberately or through negligence.
Although the entire family will no doubt suffer from the death of a loved one, it is not possible for the entire family to claim fatal accident compensation. A claim for fatal accident compensation can usually only be made by close relatives, such as parents who survive their child, children of the deceased, a spouse or a life partner. In the case of partner, wife or husband, it is only possible to claim fatal accident compensation if they had been co-habiting with the deceased for at least two years prior to the accident. Other relatives such as siblings, aunts and uncles, or grandchildren of the accident victim may be able to make a fatal accident claim in certain circumstances.
Fatal accident claims can be highly complicated, and a personal injury solicitor should always be used to pursue a claim. Not only can taking legal action to recover compensation for a fatal accident be complex, but it can place considerable demands on the person making the claim, which is all the more difficult during the emotional upheaval of losing a relative. With a personal injury solicitor fighting a fatal accident claim, the strain of taking legal action can be significantly reduced.
Fatal Accident Compensation and Negligence
In order for a fatal accident compensation claim to be made, it must be established and proven that the accident was caused by third party negligence. Establishing negligence in fatal accidents can be problematic, and this is easiest to do close to the time of the accident. Although a claim may not be able to be made immediately, the case against the negligent party can be prepared and eye witnesses can be contacted to allow sworn statements to be taken while the events which led to the accident are still fresh in the mind.
Following any fatal accident there will be an investigation into the cause of death, and it may be necessary for criminal proceedings to be brought against the person responsible. A police investigation will need to be completed before a claim for fatal accident compensation can be filed by the relatives of the deceased, which may result in a delay in compensation being received. Although this delay means that a fatal accident claim may not be able to be commenced immediately, it is strongly recommended that legal advice is sought promptly after the accident. A claim can be prepared and will be ready to file as soon as it is possible to do so.
If the victim of a fatal accident played a part in the cause of the accident, it may still be possible to make a claim for fatal accident compensation. When the actions of the victim played a role in the cause of fatal accident, the victim’s contributory negligence will be taken into consideration and may affect the level of compensation which is awarded.
Types of Fatal Accident Compensation Claims
There are two main elements to fatal accident compensation claims. A fatal accident claim may involve a claim for the victim of the accident if death was not instantaneous, such as if fatal injuries were sustained and the victim as made to suffer, or if life had been shortened by the accident. A separate claim can be made for the dependants of the deceased, provided that they were supported financially by the victim. A separate fixed sum can also be claimed for bereavement, which is independent of the victims’ and dependants’ claims.
Making a Victims’ Claim for Fatal Accident Compensation
A victims’ claim for fatal accident compensation is made by ‘the estate’ of the deceased, which is usually the immediate family who would receive any assets owned by the victim. This claim is similar to a standard personal injury claim which would have been pursued by the deceased had the injuries not proved to be fatal. Fatal accident compensation in a victims’ claim will include general damages for any pain and suffering experienced between the accident and passing away, in addition to any loss of amenity during this period. Financial losses can also be claimed, including any medical treatment costs which have been incurred up until the time of death and funeral costs. In contrast to a standard personal injury claim, it is not possible to claim for any loss of expectation of life, and loss of earnings cannot be claimed on behalf of the estate. Loss of income is included only in a dependant´s claim.
Making a Dependents’ Claim for Fatal Accident Compensation
Under the Fatal Accident Act (1976), dependents of the deceased are entitled to make a fatal accident compensation claim. In order for a dependent´s claim for fatal accident compensation to be made, it must be demonstrated that were the victim to have survived, it would have been possible to make a personal injury claim for any injuries sustained in the accident.
The fatal accident compensation amounts awarded to dependents will be calculated based on how much the victim would have been expected to earn were it not for the accident. The purpose of this aspect of fatal accident compensation is to ensure that, were it not for the untimely death of the victim that the dependents would be in no worse position financially. When the award is calculated, the age of the victim is considered, as is how long they could be expected to continue providing for dependents financially. The calculation of this aspect of a fatal accident claim can be highly complex. A personal injury solicitor will assess potential earnings, deduct expected living expenses, and an amount of the earnings would also need to be deducted to take into account the amount that deceased would have personally spent. Any lost work benefits such as a company car could also be factored into the claim.
The dependent´s claim for fatal accident compensation is made for all dependents, except when a dependant was responsible for the death of the victim. In this scenario, fatal accident compensation would be awarded to all dependants, except the person responsible for causing the accident.
Fatal Accident Compensation and the Statutory Award for Bereavement
In addition to the victim´s and dependent´s claims for fatal accident compensation, a separate fixed sum can be claimed for bereavement. This statutory fatal accident compensation award must be paid by the negligent third party responsible for causing the accident and is paid to the family of the deceased. This aspect of fatal accident compensation is independent from the dependent´s and victim´s claims, and can be awarded if neither of these claims is made. The fatal accident compensation amount in a statutory award for bereavement is £11,800.
Summary of Fatal Accident Compensation
Provided that a fatal accident was caused by the negligence of at least one third party, a claim for fatal accident compensation should be possible by the relatives of the deceased. Claims for fatal accident compensation can be made on behalf of the victim and for any dependents. The claims process and the calculation of appropriate damages can be exceptionally complex, and for this reason a personal injury solicitor with experience in dealing with fatal accident claims should always be consulted.
No amount of fatal accident compensation will ever make up for the loss of a loved one, but it will ensure that the surviving relatives are not made to suffer financially as a result of their loss.