It goes without saying that after the death of a loved one the last thing on your mind will be financial compensation. Grief will take over, life will pass you by but unfortunately over time the financial impact of losing a loved one can become too much for many people to handle. In the event of the death of a loved one due to an accident caused by negligence there may still be a case for compensation for those surviving the victim.
Who is eligible to claim in the event of a fatal accident?
The law dictates that dependents of the deceased, family members and the estate of the deceased have the right to pursue negligent parties for compensation. Central to any fatal accident claim is the need to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties which led to the subsequent fatal accident. It may sound cold and harsh thinking of compensation in the event of losing a loved one but in reality for many people, compensation is a necessity.
In the immediate aftermath of a fatal accident grief takes over and it will take some time for family, friends and associates to come to terms with their loss. It is worth noting that the three-year window of opportunity legally afforded to accident victims is the same for those left behind in the event of a fatal accident. We are all very different and it can take varying amounts of time to come to terms with such a traumatic loss but it is advisable to pursue a compensation claim sooner rather than later.
Personal injury solicitors will be able to offer the cold hard facts in the aftermath of a fatal accident and take over management of any claim. There will be questions to ask, evidence would be required, but as much as possible the complexities of a personal injury claim would be removed from the immediate family while they grieve.
Common fatal accidents
While it goes without saying, accidents can happen in any form of life but there are a number of more common fatal incidents which reach the courts. They include:
- Road traffic accidents
- Injuries in the workplace
- Medical negligence
- Fatal accidents in public
- Criminal assault
While many accidents can involve extremely severe injuries causing death, we have seen fatal accidents brought on by a seemingly simple slip or trip which caused head injuries. If one or more parties were negligent, causing the fatal accident, there will likely be recourse to claim general damages and special damages.
There are many cases involving fatal accidents where it is obvious there has been negligence and this has been accepted by those parties involved at an early stage. If you involve a personal injury solicitor at the earliest opportunity they may well be able to secure interim payment before the final compensation figure is agreed. Interim payments can enable dependents and family to cover their living expenses and additional costs in the short term.
We can only imagine the grief families feel at the loss of a loved one which can only be increased by financial pressure. In the vast majority of cases, where negligence is fairly obvious, they will be able to claim for funeral expenses typically anywhere between £3,000 up to £10,000 and above. This figure will reflect the “average” funeral costs in the UK, taking in an array of individual expenses including:
- Purchase a burial plot
- Undertakers fees
- Purchase of casket or urn
- Funeral vehicles
- Crematorium fees
- Funeral service
- Flowers and wreaths
- Wake after the funeral service
- Other administration costs such as sending out invitations
Even though many funeral directors will allow the full cost of their services to be paid off over a period of time, the receipt of an interim payment to cover these expenses removes one added pressure from those in mourning.
When deciding how much compensation to claim for following a fatal accident, a personal injury solicitor will refer to the Judicial College Guidelines. These guidelines (Guidelines for the Assessment for General Damages in Personal Injuries) are essentially a guide for professionals such as solicitors to what compensation should be awarded as general damages for different injuries and the severity of the injury.
Aside from what are known as general damages, special damages relate specifically to financial recompense for issues such as:
Loss of income
For many people the loss of income as a family unit can be excessive and unless addressed by the courts can lead to life changing scenarios. There is no real one size fits all with regards to loss of income as this would be calculated taking in issues such as annual salary, future bonus expectations, employment benefits and most importantly an estimate of an average remaining working life. If the deceased was relatively young then there would in theory have had a significantly extended career before them under normal circumstances. Therefore, compensation for loss of benefits tends to be between £10,000 and £400,000 although this could be higher in the event a relatively young victim earning above average income.
Loss of care, protection and companionship
While it is impossible to put a value on care, protection and companionship in a family unit, in many cases there will be a compensation element reflecting this. It would depend upon the individual circumstances of the case and the size of the family with a ballpark figure of between £2,000 and £100,000. For many families the death of the main income earner can be life changing on so many levels which the courts try to reflect when calculating damages.
As we touched on above, there are situations where an individual may live for a prolonged period of time under the immediate threat of death from injuries received. This could include injuries such as lung damage caused by exposure to asbestos or a shortage of life expectancy for those exposed to coal dust in the mines. The cost of any medical expenses would be included in a successful compensation award.
Holding those responsible to account
To many people the pursuit of compensation in the event of a fatal accident may seem a little cold hearted. The reality is that financial necessity and significant changes to a family’s future force many people into these situations. Making decisions in the midst of grief is nigh on impossible, so it is strongly advisable to approach a claims management company to look after your interests.
Many people also fail to realise that unless negligent parties are held to account very little tends to change. Accidents that led to the death of a loved one will likely happen to another family. Even though it is advisable to pursue a claim sooner rather than later, in many ways this is where the three-year time scale to pursue a claim is perhaps most valuable. After grief many families will feel anger towards those deemed negligent and the cause of the fatal accident but this may take some time to emerge.
While there are many situations where fatal accidents occur with no negligent parties involved, the vast majority of cases do involve a certain level of negligence. The last thing family and friends of the deceased need to worry about in the immediate aftermath is how to pay the bills and even whether they can afford the funeral. For many people, an interim payment where negligence has been proved and accepted, but the final compensation figure has not been calculated, can reduce the immediate financial burden.
Personal injury solicitors have experience in these terrible situations and will be able to review, offer advice and process claims of this nature. While any form of financial recompense will be the last thing on your mind in the early days, financial hardship and emotional turmoil can be extremely damaging to those left behind.