Fatal accidents can give rise to a claim for compensation on behalf of dependants of the deceased. The claim is usually brought pursuant to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
A fatal accident occurs where the accident was the effective cause of death even if that was not immediate.
The claim is brought either by the Executor of the deceased or by dependants. Dependants includes surviving spouses (or former spouses) cohabitees of at least two years standing, a parent or other “ascendant” a child or other “descendant” – or any one whom the deceased treated as their child (for example perhaps a step-child) – this list is not comprehensive.
The claim for compensation may include:-
- Funeral expenses if paid by the dependants
- Bereavement damages – a sum fixed by parliament as a notional compensation for grief and set at the moment at £11,800 for deaths occurring after 1st January 2008.
- Claim for loss of dependency – this entitlement is to compensate for loss of income and loss of services – for example gardening or housekeeping services that perhaps the deceased used to provide for their family or dependants. Calculation of this element of the claim can be complicated requiring an assessment of the anticipated annual loss and then applying an appropriate multiplier to calculate the overall loss – it is this element which can be particularly difficult since it requires an assessment of how long would the ceased have continued to provide had it not been for the intervention of the accident. This last head of claim can be very substantial, for example in the case of a young “breadwinner” with dependants.
Claims under the Fatal Accidents Act must be brought within the Statutory Limitation Period – as with all civil claims. Failure to bring a claim within the limitation time is often fatal –so if you are in the unfortunate position of having to contemplate such a claim you should immediately seek advice – the usual period is 3 years from the date of death but caution is always required especially in cases where death following the accident was not immediate.