Fatal accident

Fatal accidents

“I have had the worse three years of my life due to the death of my partner at work. Mr. Thompson was very understanding and helped me in more ways than he could ever imagine. I’m so grateful to him I would recommend him and his firm to anyone. Not only did he keep me well informed but also explained every thing in detail when I did not understand he got me through a difficult time when in Coroner’s Court. All I can do is wish him all the luck in the world and hope he practices in law for a long time.”

A very kind recommendation from a client in Manchester. You can see what clients say.

A fatal accident caused by the fault of another can be compensated. The people entitled and how much compensation is due must be considered carefully. Most of the rules for England and Wales are set by Statute and it is a shame the law has been slow to keep up with social change. I hope there will be changes in the future which help all those left in difficult circumstances by a fatal accident.

The law does develop slowly, so use this page for information and contact us to weigh up your own circumstances.

There are two statutes which outline what can be recovered. These are Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Both Acts have been amended and updated.

1. The Law Reform legislation means that death does not bring to an end a persons ability to recover compensation for injury and loss. This law is only relevant where death is not instantaneous. It would allow the representatives of a deceased person to recover compensation for injury and financial loss between an accident/injury and death. The action is brought by the deceased’s Estate, by Executors if there is a Will, or Personal Representatives if there is no Will (known as intestacy). The principles which apply to calculating compensation for injury and loss are the same as those used for claimants who are alive.

The Fatal Accidents Act allows two further claims to be made, but the relationships between individuals are important.

2. In the case of a death after 1 January 2008 a bereavement award of £11,800 was payable to the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, or if the deceased was below 18 years of age and had not married, the parents are entitled to this award. In 2020 unmarried cohabitees of at least two years standing were added to this list.*** If the cause of action arose after 1 April 2013 in England and Wales the sum increased to £12,980* and from 1 May 2020 that sum increased to £15,120.**

3. Reasonable funeral expenses can be recovered.

4. The Fatal Accidents Act then allows a claim to be brought for financial “dependants” of the deceased. Again the persons who may be entitled are defined and, thankfully, more liberally than the persons entitled to the bereavement award. Dependants are:

(a) the wife or husband or former wife or husband of the deceased (and Civil Partners);

(b) any person who—

(i) was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death; and

(ii) had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before that date; and

(iii) was living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife of the deceased;

(c) any parent or other ascendant of the deceased;

(d) any person who was treated by the deceased as his parent;

(e) any child or other descendant of the deceased;

(f) 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;

(g) any person who is, or is the issue of, a brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased.

The section above is a direct quote from the legislation, except for the addition of Civil partners too point (a).

You will appreciate great care has to be taken to establish who is entitled to compensation.

You may seek compensation for the loss of financial support if you are a dependant. Compensation is awarded for the loss of the victim’s financial support and services since his or her death. This consists of the portion of the deceased’s income devoted to the family or dependants, the home and other outgoings, together with compensation for any services that the victim provided, such as childcare, domestic assistance, gardening or DIY.

The financial basis for dependancy varies in each case so it would be misleading to set out guideline figures.

Only one action can be brought in respect of a death, so it is vital that all possible claims are identified.

The action can be brought by the Executors or Personal Representatives, but if they do not take up the case, those entitled under the rules may put forward the case, but the warning above should be noted.

* See The Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) (England and Wales) Order 2013

**See Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) (England and Wales) Order 2020

***See  The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order 2020 (S.I. 2020/1023)

Author: Mark Thompson

Personal injury and accident specialist solicitor

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