Wrongful Death

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    In the event of a wrongful death a claim may be bought by the estate of the deceased and the deceased’s dependants for compensation under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.

    Under the Law Reform Act a claim can be made for pre-death occurrences which include the deceased’s pain and suffering, the deceased’s loss of earnings and the cost of caring for the deceased including medical expenses. In addition the funeral and probate expenses may be claimed for.

    Any damages awarded under this Act are not deducted from any other damages awarded to dependents under the Fatal Accidents Act despite the money, in effect, being received by the deceased’s next of kin.

    The class of claimant under the FAA is very wide and includes nieces and nephews and stepchildren along with the spouse or civil partner, children, parents and those treated as a child or parent of the family.

    Claims can be made for bereavement (currently set at £11,800), funeral expenses and a loss of dependency. A ‘loss of dependency’ can be made for any financial loss by the dependent or a loss of services. This will apply where the deceased carried out services for the dependent that would have continued had it not been for their death.

    To be awarded compensation it must be shown that had the deceased survived from his injuries he would have been able to recover compensation in his own right.

    The calculation for compensation is the annual amount with a multiplier. Where a dependent making a claim is a nonworking surviving spouse the conventional approach to calculating a claim was established in Harris v Empress Motors [1984] and assumes that a deceased would spend one third of the couple’s income on themselves, one third on the surviving spouse and one third jointly. This means the figure used for financial dependency is two thirds of the couple’s income. This increases to three-quarters where there are children.

    Any compensation awarded can be reduced where contributory negligence is a factor. In addition, where a particular dependant contributed to the accident there may be a reduction in that dependant’s award.

    Where a person suffers an accident and death is not instantaneous but his life is shortened by his injuries a claim can be made for the ‘lost years’.

    Recent fatal accident claims include those effected by working with asbestos. In 2001 a case was brought by the wife of a deceased 50 year old man who had run his own business. She claimed for a loss of ‘service’ as she had to employ a manager to run the business at a value of around £23,000 per annum. The jury agreed that there should be an award for future loss and quantified compensation based on this.

    Where there is potential to make a claim under either Act it is essential that professional advice is sought by the executors of an estate.

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    About Matt Walkden

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