While a claim for compensation is likely to be the last thing on your mind when losing a loved one in a fatal accident, the financial repercussions can reverberate far and wide. It will be no consolation to those who have lost a loved one but they may still be entitled to start a fatal accident claim even though the victim has died. While putting together a case for fatal accident compensation is not easy, both practically and emotionally, thankfully there are experts to hand who will be able to advise living dependents.
In essence, if the victim would have qualified to make a claim for compensation as a consequence of their injuries then this right simply passes to their dependents. This right is at the centre of the process of claiming compensation for fatal accidents and takes in a whole range of different aspects.
Fatal Accidents Act 1976
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 was brought in specifically to allow dependents of the deceased to claim compensation. While this is an official act of Parliament those responsible for accidental death as a consequence of negligence are still liable to pay any compensation awards. However, before we take a look at the specific financial aspect of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 it is worth noting that in order to qualify the claimant must be able to prove that:
- The deceased was injured as a consequence of a wrongful act by the defendant.
- The cause of death was as a consequence of injuries suffered.
- The deceased would have had a valid claim to recover general damages and special damages if they survived.
- The dependents have suffered actual financial loss as a consequence of the unlawful death.
The specific part of the act which defines those able to claim fatal accident compensation has attracted significant controversy over the years. While updated and tweaked on a regular basis those dependents able to claim compensation include:
- Wife or husband.
- Former wife or husband.
- Civil partner.
- Former civil partner.
- Those living in the same household, as a family, for at least two years prior to date of death.
- Parent or direct descendant of the deceased.
- A person who was treated by the deceased as their parent.
- Child or other descendant of the deceased.
- A child adopted by the deceased.
- Brother, sister, uncle and aunt of the deceased.
There have been various legal challenges with regards to the two-year time span which the government defines as “a degree of permanence or dependence”. If you have a claim under the fatal accidents legislation you will be fully advised of the various changes over the years.
Statutory Bereavement Award
The current statutory bereavement award stands at £12,980 and while seen by many as but a token gesture, the government has on numerous occasions reiterated it should be considered together with the dependency award. What price do you put on the death of an individual? The authorities argue that a fair method takes in the statutory bereavement payment and an additional award taking into account financial dependence. It is also worth noting that where there are multiple claimants under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 the statutory bereavement award will be shared accordingly. Those eligible to make a fatal accident claim for the statutory bereavement award include:
- Wife to the deceased.
- Husband to the deceased.
- Parents of the deceased where a child is under 18, living at home and had never married.
As emotions very often run high in the aftermath of the death of a loved one it is vital to take professional advice from a personal injury lawyer/solicitor as soon as possible. This will help to confirm who is eligible to claim for compensation, the correct process and also focus the minds of those left behind.
Funeral Expenses In Fatal Accident Claims
While funeral expenses are not specifically mentioned in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 it is widely acknowledged that a dependent can claim for funeral expenses. These will not necessarily cover ceremonial costs above and beyond a basic funeral but they will at least offer some form of financial assistance in often difficult times.
At this moment in time the average cost of a traditional burial stands at about £4,257 with costs for a cremations around £4257 or £3311. For many people there will also be an array of additional expenses such as a celebration of the individual’s life after the funeral ceremony is over. Under normal circumstances these will not be considered when applying for compensation for funeral costs.
As well as the statutory bereavement award, and assistance towards the cost of a funeral, there is the dependency claims award to consider. This particular element in fatal accident claims is likely to be the largest of the three payments available and while it looks complicated on the surface, there is an array of common expenses which will be taken into consideration. Whether husband, wife, parent, child or other financial dependent, any final award will take into account elements such as:
- Future pension loss.
- Healthcare benefits.
- Mobile phone costs..
- Financial allowances
- Company car.
- DIY expenses.
- Loan repayments.
- Adjustments to a house.
- Loss of future employment income.
There is no real hard and fast rule with regards to claims for dependency compensation as they will likely differ significantly from case to case. In simple terms, qualifying dependents can claim for any loss of financial assistance as a consequence of the victim’s death with children of the deceased even awarded compensation for elements such as future babysitting expenses.
Many people fail to realise but any qualifying dependent can make their own individual claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 with the court ultimately ruling on the eventual awards. It is worth noting that the Department of Work and Pensions is also likely to be heavily involved in fatal accident compensation claims, calculating what the deceased would have received in state benefits in the future.
Lodging A Fatal Accident Claim For Compensation
While it is advisable to take advice from a personal injury solicitor when pursuing a fatal accident claim, the issue of fatal accident compensation is more complicated than normal. When you also take into account the fact that emotions will be running high in the aftermath of the death of a loved one it is even more important to take professional advice as soon as possible. The first action is then to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties after which a claim can be lodged under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Note, even though there is a statutory right to compensation in the event of a fatal accident, there is still a need to prove negligence on behalf of the defendant(s).
The statutory bereavement award, financial assistance for funeral expenses and dependency claims can look relatively complicated on the surface. However, due to the number of historic cases there is now an array of standard financial liabilities which can be discussed with your soliitor. They will then be able to review specific financial liabilities possibly unique to individual claims and workout their monetary value to dependents.
Avoiding Financial Destitution
Even though filing for fatal accident compensation will be the last thing on the minds of friends, family and loved ones, there is a need to act as soon as possible. While it will depend upon the level of financial dependence a claimant had from the deceased, there may be many financial challenges in the immediate aftermath. It may seem cold and calculating but it is essential to lodge a fatal accident claim as quickly as possible to avoid potential financial destitution. The pressure of losing a loved one is bad enough but an inability to pay the bills can push many people over the edge.
The specific act of Parliament covering fatal accident compensation contains a statutory bereavement award. This together with financial assistance towards basic funeral costs can at least relieve some of the financial pressure in the short term. The dependency compensation claim is slightly more complicated, and may take longer to complete, but the sooner it is lodged the sooner the fatal accident claim will be considered and hopefully compensation awarded.