Fatal accident claims are a wide and potentially complicated area of law, and can be emotionally taxing to pursue for the dependants and bereaved family members.
Fatal accident claims
Fatal accident claims are a wide and potentially complicated area of law. They can be emotionally taxing to pursue for the dependants and bereaved family members. The provision for awards for fatal accidents is derived from two statutes: the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 (The 1934 Act) and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (The 1976 Act). The 1934 Act involves claims for the benefit of the deceased’s estate. The 1976 Act allows claims to be brought for the loss of dependency arising out of the death of the deceased.
The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934
Claims under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 are for the benefit of the deceased’s estate, the Act is a continuation of the deceased’s existing rights before their death (i.e. any clinical negligence or personal injury claim). The damages that can be awarded under this Act are those that the deceased could have claimed before they died. This includes, but is not limited, to:
- Pain and suffering, and loss of amenity (from the time of the injury until death)
- Loss of income (from the time of the injury until death)
- Care and assistance (from the time of the injury until death)
- All other reasonably incurred expenses that were brought on by the injury to the point of death
- Reasonable funeral expenses
The case law surrounding funeral expenses is interesting but not always consistent. Usually what is considered reasonable includes the funeral service, the headstone and embalming. What is often disallowed includes costs of the wake, mourning clothes and any monuments. However, case law has shown that what is considered reasonable varies from case to case, and is influenced by the deceased’s cultural origin or ‘station in life’. For example, the family of a man who was part of the Ghanian royal family were awarded a much larger sum of money than what is usually seen for funeral expenses, partly because of his ‘station in life’, and partly because in Ghanian culture, funerals are often elaborate and expensive.
The damages claimed under this Act will go to the deceased’s estate and will then be passed to the beneficiaries as per a will or the rules of intestacy if there is no will.
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976
Claims under this act are for the loss of dependency – it creates a separate cause of action for the dependants of the estate. Damages under this act can fall under the following heads of loss:
- Pain and suffering and loss of amenity (as per that under the 1934 Act)
- Loss of income (as per that under the 1934 Act)
- Bereavement award
- Dependency claim
The bereavement award is a notional sum awarded when the death is a result of negligence, the sum is fixed at £15,120 and only a specific list of people are entitled to it:
- Wife, husband, or civil partner of the deceased
- An unmarried couple who can prove they lived together two years prior to death
- Parent of the deceased
- Child of the deceased or someone treated as a child of the deceased, or a child of the deceased’s brother, sister, aunt or uncle
Claims can only be brought regarding a child if they were under 18 and never married at the time of their death, the law surrounding this award is strict and unfair.
This award is very limited in terms of the amount and who is entitled to it. Case law has suggested that the award is not for loss of love and affection, but to compensate loved ones for the non-financial benefits that would have been enjoyed, but for the death of their family member.
Our experience of fatal accident claims
We have extensive experience in bringing fatal accident claims on behalf of families whose relatives have died as a result of clinical negligence or personal injury. If you think a loved one may have died as a result of clinical negligence or personal injury, get in touch with our team here to discuss bringing a fatal accident claim.
Visit our Medical Mondays hub for more information on the different injuries, accidents, and claims that are commonly encountered by our Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury team.