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Fatal Accidents can occur in a variety of situations following unexpected or unforeseen events, such as a road traffic accident, an accident at work or from substandard medical care. If the death was caused or materially caused because of the negligence of someone else including a health care provider, then the Deceased’s Estate and Dependents may be able to claim compensation.
Our legal teams are experts in Fatal Accident Claims with a dedicated Inquest and Civil Litigation department to guide you though the process and, in some cases, obtain significant compensation.
What is a Fatal Accident?
A Fatal Accident compensation claim arises when someone dies as a result of the negligence of another person or an organisation following an unexpected or unforeseen event.
What happens after a Fatal Accident?
An Inquest is likely to be heard before a Coroner to investigate the circumstances of a death following an Accident. Minton Morrill’s inquest team are leaders in the field representing bereaved families following the death of a loved one. Click here for more information about the services our Inquest solicitors provide as well as information about the Inquisitorial process. We also have a dedicated webpage on Inquests stemming from medical negligence found by clicking here.
The Coroner will hear evidence about the circumstances of the death and try to find out what happened. The procedure at an Inquest is very different to any other type of civil hearing. The Coroner will provide a conclusion about the cause of death at the end of the Inquest; this may be helpful for any subsequent Fatal Accident claim for compensation, particularly if there are criticisms directed against the individual/organisation suspected of being responsible for the death.
Our Inquest lawyers will be able to advise you about the Inquest process as well as discuss the possibility of providing specialist representation for you.
What is a Fatal Accident Compensation Claim?
If someone’s death was caused by the negligence of another person or organisation the Deceased’s Estate (explained below) and their Dependents (husband/wife and children) may be able to claim Fatal Accident compensation.
The ability to claim compensation is set out in two specific Acts of Parliament:
- The Fatal Accidents Act 1976; and
- The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934.
What is the Fatal Accidents Act 1976?
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 sets out that the dependents of the Deceased can claim compensation if the death occurred as a result of negligence. There are different types of compensation that can be sought under the Fatal Accidents Act:
- Statutory Bereavement Award;
- Loss of Consortium (also known as loss of a special person);
- Loss of Past and Future Financial Dependency on the Deceased’s income;
- Loss of Past and Future Services Dependency on the Deceased’s services;
Who can bring a Dependency Claim?
A Fatal Accidents dependency claim is usually pursued by the Deceased’s Executors, nominated in the Deceased’s Will or those who are authorised to represent the Deceased if he or she dies without making a will.. The Executors then normally pursue the claim for compensation on behalf of the Dependents. If, however, the Executors of the Deceased’s Estate do not begin a claim for compensation within 6 months of the death the Dependents can pursue a claim on their own.
See below for information about claiming if the Deceased did not have a Will.
The Fatal Accidents Act sets out who qualifies as a dependent:
- The wife, husband or civil partner of the Deceased;
- Anyone living with the Deceased immediately before their death;
- Anyone living with the Deceased for 2 years before their death;
- Any biological child of the Deceased;
- Any other child treated by the Deceased as their own child;
- Any parent or grandparent of the Deceased;
- Any sibling of the Deceased (brother, sister, uncle, aunt, etc)
Our team of specialist Fatal Claims lawyers have encountered many different family sets ups and have experience advising clients on this dependency criteria.
What are bereavement damages?
Under the Fatal Accidents Act if a person has died as a result of negligence a statutory bereavement award currently set at £12,980 is payable to:
- The wife, husband or civil partner of the Deceased; or
If the Deceased was under the age of 18 and never married/civil partner:
- Their parents (if legitimate); or
- Their mother (if illegimiate).
What is loss of Consortium?
Loss of Consortium is an award of damages pursued following one specific case, Regan v Williamson. It was recognised in this case that the Dependents had lost special unquantifiable services because of the Deceased’s death. Children losing their mother or father or a husband or wife losing their partner after a long marriage are examples. Awards of under £10,000 are regularly recovered.
What is Financial Dependency?
Under the Fatal Accidents Act dependents can pursue a claim for compensation stemming from their loss of financial dependency on the Deceased. This award usually runs from the date of death until the date of trial (loss of past financial dependency) and then, going forward, for future loss of financial dependency.
This type of compensation typically includes salary, investments and pensions but all financial income of the Deceased is considered, including state benefits.
See below for how we calculate loss of financial dependency.
What is Services Dependency?
A claim for loss of Services Dependency is again pursued by the Dependents through the Fatal Accidents Act. Dependents can claim for the lost services that the Deceased would have provided but for their avoidable death.
Child dependents will likely be able to claim the loss of care (cooking meals, washing and clothing, helping with school homework, school-runs etc) that their parent would have given to them if they had not died. A wife, for example, may be able to claim the loss of her husband’s services if, for instance, he was the main cook, or primarily responsible for the DIY and gardening before his death.
See below for how we calculate loss of services dependency.
What is the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act?
The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act enables a separate claim for compensation to be brought on behalf of the Deceased’s Legal Estate if their death was caused by negligence. The Estate effectively acts on behalf of the Deceased person to pursue a claim for them (in their absence) with any compensation received distributed through their Estate to the beneficiaries.
A Grant of Probate is required if the Deceased had a Will or Letters of Administration if the Deceased did not have a Will to pursue this type of claim. Click [here] for more information about how to deal with Probate. Our legal team will either be able to obtain this for you or help you to obtain this yourself.
The Estate can seek to claim compensation for the following:
- General Damages:
This is an award of compensation for the Deceased’s pain, suffering and loss of amenity from the point when the negligence occurred until their death. For example, if they spent a number of weeks in Hospital after a car crash (due to someone else’s negligent driving) n pain and discomfort before their death this would attract an award of compensation.
- Loss of Earnings:
Any loss of earnings/income between the negligent act and the Deceased’s death can be pursued, on their behalf, by the Estate.
- Gratuitous Care & Support
Care provided to the Deceased by their family and loved ones from the time of their accident until their death can attract an award of compensation if it can be shown that the care went above and beyond that which would have usually be provided in the circumstances. Only this extra or Gratuitous Care and Support can be compensated.
- Financial Expenses:
The Deceased’s family and loved ones can seek to have their financial losses of, for example, visiting the Deceased while in Hospital compensated. This typically includes travel costs, parking and loss of earnings from the time of the negligence until the Deceased’s death.
- Funeral Costs:
The Deceased’s Estate can look to recover the funeral and wake costs and expenses. Claims for a grave-stone, memorial bench or other special religious or cultural ceremonies are also often pursued by the Estate.
- Probate Costs:
The time and cost of the Deceased’s Estate applying for and obtaining either the Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration so that they can administer the Estate and pursue compensation are also often pursued.
Why we can help you.
The death of a loved one is devastating but if their death was caused by someone else’s fault the experience is even more upsetting. Minton Morrill solicitors have a full service team available to help guide you through this difficult time.
It is likely that an Inquest will be heard to find out the cause of the Deceased’s death. We have one of the top Inquest teams in the country. Gemma Vine, head of the Inquest department, has a national reputation as a leader in the field of Inquest work. Her team represent families from start to finish of the Inquest process and will talk you through how each stage of the process works.
Gemma regularly represents families in the most high profile Inquests. She acted for the family of Bobby and Christi Shepperd following their tragic death at a Thomas Cook resort in Corfu in 2006. Click here to see Gemma speaking to Sky News about this case and here for information about how the Inquest process.
Our team of Civil lawyers will advise you before or after the Inquest whether it is likely that a claim for compensation can be pursued as a result of your loved one’s death. If you can prove that the death was caused by the negligence of someone else it is likely that compensation will be recovered. The Inquest process may provide further evidence to help with a civil claim for compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act and the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act which is why it is helpful to speak to us and our expert Inquest team early on.
Our Fatal Claim solicitors are vastly experienced in these sensitive claims. Guy Pomphrey, for example, worked extensively on another high profile Fatal Claim stemming from the death of Mrs Frances Cappuccini at Pembury Hospital in 2012. This case involved an Inquest, criminal investigation and trial for both gross negligence manslaughter (against Mrs Cappuccini’s treating doctors) and corporate manslaughter (against the Hospital Trust) as well as a successful civil Fatal claim for compensation. Guy’s blogs on this case can be accessed here.
Our team of lawyers have a track record of securing the maximum level of compensation for families and dependents stemming from a loved one’s death.
Fatal Claim Case Studies
Click here to go to our dedicated Fatal Claims case study page.
Click here to read online reviews from our clients about our services.
How is a Fatal Accident Claim investigated and calculated?
Lost Financial Dependency
Dependency claims are often complex. Investigations into the Deceased’s income; capital and likely future financial position are necessary. This is likely to involve obtaining and reviewing state and private pension information (with consideration of retirement ages); annual salaries, bonuses, share schemes (etc) as well as investments (property, shares etc) to get a clear picture of their current and future financial position but for their death. At the same time, the same detailed exercise will need to be carried out for the Deceased’s partner because the financial income the surviving partner receives affects any damages.
If there are child dependents, evidence will be required on how long they would have been financially dependent on the Deceased. If, for example, both children will attend University they may have been financially dependent until aged 25.
Here is a worked example based of a Past Loss of Dependency Claim Calculation:
- John died as a result of Peter’s negligent driving aged 40.
- John was married to Linda (40) with 2 children: Paul (15) and Stacey (12)
- John worked in a bank and earned £20,000 (net) per year
- John had investments of £5,000 (net) coming in per year
- John’s annual net income (salary and investments) is £25,000
- Linda worked as a Teaching Assistant and earned £10,000 (net) per year
- Linda had no investments
Past Loss of Financial Dependency:
- Time from John’s death to date of Trial or Settlement: 3.5 years
- £10,000 (Linda’s salary) + £25,000 (John’s total income) = £35,000
- £35,000 x 75% = £26,250
- £26,250 - £10,000 (Linda’s salary) = £16,250
- Annual loss of Dependency on John’s income = £16,250
- £16,250 x 3.5 years (time since death) = £56,875.
It is assumed that because John/Linda had two dependent children they would have spent the bulk (75%) of their financial income on their family; this is why their combined income is divided by 75%. This figure would reduce down to 67% when Stacey, their youngest child turned 25, and was no longer financially dependent because the law assumes at this point that John (were he still alive) and Linda would then spend more of their income on themselves rather than on the family, without children.
Loss of Future Financial Dependency
With future loss of financial dependency all of these factors need to be given consideration alongside increases in salary, investments and pensions to map out, as accurately as possible, what the Deceased (and their partner) would have earned and provided for their family but for their death. Our team of expert lawyers have extensive experience with these complicated calculations to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve as a result of someone’s death.
How is Services Dependency investigated and calculated?
With loss of services dependency our team of solicitors look at information about the Deceased’s routine and regular jobs around the home and, if relevant, with child-care. This will form the basis of a detailed witness statement from you setting out what services the Deceased performed and, on average, how many hours per day they spent carrying these out. Examples include:
- food shopping
- clothes washing
- car maintenance
- managing finances/banking/booking holidays/insurance
- child care
- care of family members
By assessing how much time the Deceased spent, on average, per day on jobs that benefited the Dependents we scale this up to a yearly average and apply an hourly rate to these lost services to calculate a loss of services dependency. In some cases we instruct experts to assist us with these services calculations.
The same investigation process applies to both past and future loss of services calculations taking into account any likely changes in the Deceased’s ability to provide these, such as their age, underlying medical conditions, as well as work.
A loss of services claim strictly focuses on quantifying the losses that the Deceased would have provided to the Dependents had he or she not died.
How much Compensation will I receive?
Each Fatal Claim is different and the amount of compensation will be determined by different factors such as the annual income of the Deceased and the amount of time they spent providing services to the Dependents. For example, if a married banker with two young children died as a result of negligent medical treatment, his widow would likely be able to claim considerable loss of financial dependency of his income but, if the Deceased worked very long hours, the loss of services part of the claim may be significantly less.
Talk to our team about this and we will be able to advise on likely compensation.
Why pursue a Fatal Accidents Claim?
The law recognises and protects individuals and families when a loved one has died as a result of someone else’s fault through these types of Fatal Claims. Its aim is to make sure that Dependents have sufficient compensation so that they can carry on with their lives in the manner they would have but for the Deceased’s avoidable death. Just as importantly, both the Inquest and the Fatal Claim process provide families with answers as to why and how someone died.
How can we pay for a Fatal Accidents Claim?
Each case is different but most Fatal Claims are funded through a No Win No Fee Agreement or Legal Expenses Insurance. In some cases, this type of funding may also provide funding for the Inquest as well as the Fatal Claim for compensation.
Speak to our team and we can advise you on your funding options.
Contact the Minton Morrill Fatal Claims team if your loved one has died as a result of someone else’s fault. We can help you assess whether there is likely to be a claim for compensation to ensure that you and your family receive the compensation you deserve as well as provide representation at an Inquest if required.
For more information, call our experts on 0113 245 8549 or complete this form.
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