The loss of a loved one is always difficult to handle. However, it is especially hard when the loss is caused by someone else’s negligence, and could have been avoided.
Whilst it is impossible to compensate adequately for someone’s death, the law does try to be sympathetic to those who have been left behind. If it can be proven that the fatality was caused by the negligence of another, a claim can still be made on behalf of the person’s estate, or by the surviving spouse or children. This article looks at the options available to the family in these unfortunate and devastating circumstances.
Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity
The deceased’s estate is entitled to claim for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity (of the deceased) for the period between injury and death. In cases where a serious injury is followed relatively quickly by death, the level of award will depend on the nature of the injury, and the deceased’s awareness of impending death. In all circumstances, cases are individually assessed based on the injury and circumstances leading up to the death.
Secondary victim claims may also be brought by family members, relatives and friends affected by the death of the individual. For example, a claim for psychiatric damage.
For the grieving family, no amount of money will bring a loved one back. However, it is still possible to recover what is known as a “bereavement award” from the negligent party.
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, the current bereavement award is £12,980.00. This is payable to the husband or wife of the deceased, and includes civil partners. If the deceased was under the age of 18, the award is payable to the parents. In the case of an illegitimate child, the award is payable to the mother only.
Currently only a single bereavement award is payable to the surviving family, which is split. For example, following the death of a child, the £12,980.00 is to be split between the parents.
Funeral Costs / other legal expenses
To add to the suffering, families are faced with the sudden onset of probate and funeral costs, along with other associated legal fees or expenses which they did not expect to incur. Fortunately, where negligence is proven, these costs can be recovered from the negligent party on top of the bereavement award.
If liability for the fatal injury is admitted quickly after an accident or medical negligence, there is a good chance that the immediate costs incurred by a family can be recovered as an interim payment from the at-fault party while the rest of the claim is pending. Such a payment may be of enormous benefit to a family in the short-term.
Further, if the circumstances of a person’s death require consideration at an inquest, it is possible to seek recovery of the cost of representation at the inquest and any advice / support obtained in the process. These costs can be included in the claim made by the family against the at-fault party.
On top of the struggle to try and live in the same way as when their loved one was at their side, in many cases the deceased person was the main income earner in the family. So how does the surviving family continue to pay the mortgage or the bills?
Each case is based on its merits, but a claim for dependency can also be brought on top of the bereavement / expenses claim. Such losses can vary from loss of future earnings that could have been expected if the person had survived; loss of pension; and loss of services of the deceased. The losses must also be proven, so that it can be shown that the loss of the deceased’s income is having a detrimental effect on the surviving family’s ability to pay its way to the same extent as before.
Our solicitors have extensive experience in helping families deal with the trauma of fatal injury claims. In the unfortunate event you have lost a loved one through the negligence of another, we are happy to help try and ease your suffering. Please call 01924 692125 for a free initial consultation.