Leading personal injury and medical negligence solicitors
Fatal car accident claims solicitors
Experts in road traffic accident claims
A fatal accident can devastate the lives of those left behind and family members often do not know which way to turn. We understand that the death of a relative due to personal injury is exceptionally difficult to cope with and can lead to significant financial hardship.
Who can bring a claim on behalf of the deceased?
A fatal injury claim for compensation is made on behalf of the deceased’s estate and dependents. The claim, generally with the help of a lawyer, is conducted by the person authorised to make a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Generally a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration are needed.
There are two statutory sources under which a claim can be brought in:
- The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934
- The Fatal Accidents Act 1976
The estate can claim using the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and the dependants can claim using the Fatal Accidents Act.
Claims by the estate
The Executor or the Administrator of the Estate can claim for the losses of the estate which include:
- Funeral expenses
- Any financial losses the deceased had prior to his death
- Whether there was any pain, suffering or loss of amenity experienced by the deceased before death
Claims by the dependants
More common are the claims that are made on the behalf of the dependants but in order to make a claim the family member must meet the following criteria:
- The dependants must fit into the statuary definition
- They must have had a reasonable expectation or anticipation of a financial benefit from the deceased
Who qualifies as a dependant in a fatal accident claim?
- The wife or husband or former wife or husband of the deceased
- Any person who –
- Was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death; and
- Had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before that date; and
- Was living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife of the deceased
- Any parent or other ascendant of the deceased;
- Any person who was treated by the deceased as his parent;
- Any child or other descendant of the deceased;
- Any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any marriage to which the deceased was at any time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage;
- Any person who is, or is the issue of, a brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased.
What can you claim for as a dependent of someone who died in a car accident?
Every fatal claim is different, but generally the following losses are recovered for the death of a family member who was in employment:
- Bereavement award
- Pain and suffering for the deceased (if the deceased survived their injuries for a period of time before death)
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of income/pension to the dependants
- Loss of services such as DIY, domestic chores and childcare
Who can claim for Bereavement payments?
Those who can claim for bereavement are in fact very limited, and certainly not as extensive as those who fit into the category of dependant.
The bereavement payment, called “Statutory Bereavement Award”, is only available to:
- The husband / wife or civil partner of the deceased
- Where the deceased was a minor who never married,
- His parents if he was legitimate,
- His mother if he was illegitimate.
The Government has recently announced plans to extend bereavement damages under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 to bereaved cohabitees (claimants who cohabited with the deceased for a period of at least two years immediately before the death). Where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership with one person and cohabiting with another (for example, in a case in which the individual was separated but not divorced), the award for bereavement damages would be split equally between the two qualifying parties.
Statutory bereavement damages (currently £12,980) are awarded in successful claims.
What proof is needed to bring a claim?
In cases of fatal accidents claims the challenges that need to be overcome are:
- Proof of expectation of financial support
In order to be bring a successful claim, proof needs to be provided for the below:
- The deceased was injured by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of the defendant
- The deceased died as a consequence of that act, neglect or default
- At the time the deceased died he could have brought an action to recover damages
- The dependants have suffered loss as a result of the death
All four of these have to be proved; a case will not get by on proof of one only. Just because a death occurs, it does not necessarily mean that someone is liable.
This as ever causes more problems than the liability issues. The test is whether the wrongful act made a material contribution to the death. In other words it does not have to be the sole reason that somebody died.
The simple principle to remember is that if the deceased had been injured only and he had not died, and he would have had a rightful claim, then the appropriate dependants can take on that claim.
What documents/information will you need to gather for your case?
Documents and information required in fatal cases:
- Marriage Certificate where Deceased married
- Birth Certificate of any children
- Birth Certificate and Death Certificate of Deceased
- Probate ( Official Document consenting the Claimant to bring proceedings against the third party insurer for the Deceased’s estate on behalf of the surviving spouse and children)
- Deceased’s information :
- Earnings information (P60, wage slips, tax returns or accounts where appropriate, pension statements).
- Educational information – certificates and qualifications/CV
- Surviving spouse information:
- Earnings information (P60, wage slips)
- Pension information
- Qualifications and educational attainment certificates
- Funeral expenses receipts
- Deceased’s GP records
- Ambulance records for the Deceased.
- Date of birth of the Deceased’s surviving spouse and any children
- Third party details – third party name, address, vehicle registration number and make, insurance details and policy number
- Coroner’s name, address and reference number
- Investigating Officer and Family Liaison Officer name and contact details
- Deceased’s RTA insurer and details of any vehicle value and excess and any other personal injury benefits and awards within the policy documentation
- Details of any witnesses
- Financial dependency – would the Deceased have worked to retirement age? Were there are any promotional or increased earning capacity? Were they the breadwinner?
- Services dependency, how much time did the Deceased help or contribute towards household expenses, holidays, weddings, birthdays, household chores, DIY, decorating, gardening?
Circumstances when there may be an inquest in road traffic claims
If the driver at fault dies, then the coroner will hold an inquest into cause of death.
An inquest is held in public by the coroner. The purpose of an inquest is to establish who, when, where and how the Deceased came about the death.
Family members are allowed to attend the inquest and ask questions of witnesses that the coroner has called, in order to find out more about the cause and circumstances of the death. We regularly represent family members at inquests.
At the conclusion of the inquest, the coroner will make a final conclusion in relation to the death. In fatal road traffic incidents, there are 3 conclusions which can be reached:
- Open (this conclusion will probably be unlikely)
- Road Traffic Collision (this relatively new conclusion can be reached, if the Court concludes, following a review of the evidence, that a conclusion of unlawful killing would not be appropriate.
- Unlawful Killing
In a driving case for an unlawful killing conclusion to be reached, the Coroner has to be satisfied either:
- the ingredients of gross negligence manslaughter are met, or
- a vehicle is being used as a weapon of assault and deliberately driven at a person who dies ( murder or manslaughter depending on intent).
Gross negligence manslaughter is committed where the following is proved:
- Duty of care based on ordinary principles of negligence is owed to the deceased
- Breach of that duty of care
- Risk of death ( not just risk of serious injury) is reasonably foreseeable and reasonable for consequence of misconduct
- Breach caused death
- Having regard to risk of death involved, mis-conduct was grossly negligent as to be condemned as the serious crime of manslaughter.
All elements must be proved to the criminal standard – beyond all reasonable doubt. All must relate to one identifiable person and not be aggregated through the actions of a number of people.
Breach of duty should only be categorised as gross when it involved “such disregard for life and safety of others as to amount to a crime against the state and conduct deserving punishment”– serious mistakes or serious errors or judgement are not enough.
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