The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one due to an unforeseen accident is a devastating experience for family and friends. Learning that the accident was due to another person’s negligence and could have been avoided can make it even more upsetting.
Coping with the grief of losing a loved one can be very difficult. While no amount of money could make you feel better, fatal accident compensation could help ease the financial strain you might be under due to your loss.
A fatal injury could be due to a road traffic accident, an accident at work, or even a consequence of medical negligence. As long as another party was responsible for the loss of your loved one, you might be able to make a fatal accident claim.
The claim could cover pain and suffering, funeral expenses, bereavement awards, and dependency compensation. Fatal injury claims could be brought by the estate executors and dependents of the deceased, including spouses, civil partners, children, siblings and parents.
If you have a valid case, a solicitor can likely act on your behalf to secure compensation by offering you a no win no fee agreement. This means you do not have to worry about any upfront fees or legal costs, and you do not have to pay anything if your claim is ultimately unsuccessful.
Can I make a fatal accident claim?
A fatal accident claim may arise when a loved one dies because of another party’s negligence. If you lost a family member following an unexpected and unforeseen event, a free consultation with a legal adviser is the easiest way to determine whether you could claim fatal injury compensation.
Usually, a claim should be possible if:
- A member of your family passed away in the last three years
- Another party owed them a duty of care
- The defendant acted negligently, causing a fatal injury to your loved one
According to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, there are several ways in which a close relative could be compensated for the wrongful death of their loved one. These include a dependency claim, bereavement damages, funeral expenses and financial losses. Your solicitor can advise you on what you could claim based on your unique situation.
To find out if you have a valid fatal accident claim, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser. Otherwise, you can enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.
Who is a dependant under the Fatal Accidents Act?
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 allows relatives of wrongful death victims to claim compensation for their damages. The Act was first introduced in 1846; the 1976 revision modernised the process and overruled earlier legislation.
After a fatal accident, the deceased’s executors, nominated in their will, are those that usually pursue a dependency claim on behalf of the dependants. If there is no will, those authorised to represent the deceased will handle the claim.
If estate executors do not begin a claim for fatal injury compensation within six months, the dependants can pursue a claim on their own. The Fatal Accidents Act stipulates who qualifies as a dependant of the deceased as follows:
- Their wife or husband or former wife or husband
- Their civil partner or former civil partner
- Any person who was living in the same household as a husband, wife or civil partner for at least two years before their death
- Any parent or another ascendant, including grandparents and great grandparents
- Anyone they treated as a parent
- Any blood child or other descendant
- Anyone treated as a child by the deceased
- Their brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts
Any dependants that relied on the income and services of the deceased can make a dependency claim. Dependency claims generally include two areas:
It considers the loss of income of the deceased, lost pensions, employment and healthcare benefits and any alternative income and savings. Dependency claims are often complex and involve obtaining and reviewing pension information, salaries, bonuses, share schemes and investments. A dependency claim compensates only the financial benefits expected from the deceased. You cannot recover damages for sorrow, grief and other subjective distress.
Loss of service dependency
Dependants can also claim the loss of services the deceased would have provided. This includes gardening, household chores, property maintenance or DIY projects. Child dependants could also claim the loss of care such as cooking meals or helping with homework. The value of a service dependency claim can be particularly hard to establish, as some services do not have a specific financial price.
How do I make a fatal accident claim?
Losing a loved one in an unexpected accident is a devastating event. While experiencing such grief and shock, claiming compensation is probably the last thing on your mind. Nonetheless, the death of a family member can put you under a lot of economic strain.
A fatal accident claim can help ease the financial pressure you might be under so you can take care of yourself and overcome this traumatic event. The first step you should take towards securing compensation is to contact an experienced solicitor.
They will offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and tell you how the claiming process works. Your solicitor will work closely with you to gather all the facts so that they can advise you on how to proceed.
When a person dies unexpectedly, there may be a coroner’s inquest into the cause of death. This is a public hearing into the reasons causing the passing away of your loved one. The coroner handles the inquiries, and witnesses will be required to present their proof and answer questions. If this may seem too distressing for you to attend, your solicitor can represent you.
To be eligible for fatal injury compensation, you need evidence to show that another party is responsible for the death of your loved one. This includes:
- Medical records stating your loved one’s injuries and any medical interventions they received in an attempt to save their life
- The coroner’s report, stating that the accident was the cause of the death of your loved one
- Evidence related to the accident scene, such as photographs, CCTV or dash cam footage
- Contact details of any witnesses so they can provide statements to support your claim
- Your own recollections of how the events unfolded, if you were present at the accident scene
- The accident report book, if the event occurred in a privately owned business or at their workplace
Your solicitor will use all the available evidence to prepare a strong fatal accident claim and work out a suitable compensation award. Afterwards, they will contact those responsible for the death of your loved one and try to negotiate a settlement that meets your needs.
Most fatal injury claims settle out of court. If the other party does not accept liability or you cannot agree on a fair compensation award, your solicitor will issue court proceedings.
Common accidents that result in fatal injury claims
There are many circumstances in which an individual could suffer a fatal accident. If you lost a loved one because of the negligent behaviour of another party, you might be able to make a fatal injury claim. Some accidents that might entitle you to compensation include:
Road traffic accidents
As dictated by the Highway Code, road users have a legal duty to protect the safety of others by proceeding with a reasonable standard of care and skill. Careless driving, speeding and failure to look properly are just some of the causes leading to road traffic accidents.
In 2020, 1,516 people died on UK roads due to the negligent behaviour of another individual. If your loved one suffered a fatal road traffic accident, the defendant’s insurer might be liable to pay you fatal injury compensation.
Accidents at work
Every employer has a duty to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of employees by following the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 guidelines. According to Health and Safety Executive statistics, an average of 136 workers suffered a fatal injury per year between 2016 and 2021.
Falls from a height, being struck by a moving vehicle or object and contact with moving machinery are the most common causes of fatal accidents at work. If an employer or another party failed to take all reasonable measures to prevent your loved one’s accident, you could be entitled to make a fatal injury claim.
Industrial diseases such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, or carbon monoxide poisoning may lead to fatal illnesses and health conditions. Asbestos-related diseases can take decades to develop, so the deceased’s employer might no longer be in business. Even if you find yourself in this situation, an experienced solicitor could still help secure the fatal injury compensation you deserve.
If a loved one lost their life due to a violent assault, either at the incident scene or in the following months, you could receive fatal injury compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).
The CICA scheme allows members of the deceased’s family, such as children or spouses, to claim bereavement and dependency payments. Usually, you must file a CICA claim within two years after an assault or the date of death.
Accidents in public places
According to the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957, those in control of public places such as shops, restaurants, car parks or gyms must take all the reasonable steps to ensure the safety of visitors. Local councils are likewise legally required to ensure that the roads, pavements, parks and other common domains are safe for public use.
Medical professionals have a duty to provide a reasonable standard of care to all patients in order to keep them safe and prevent any unnecessary harm. Substandard care can sometimes result in wrongful death due to an incorrect diagnosis, delayed treatment, incorrect medication or surgical negligence.
If your loved one passed away due to negligent medical treatment, you could make a claim against the NHS or the private hospital where they received treatment.
Regardless of the circumstances in which your loved one lost their life, if another party was to blame, you might be able to make a fatal accident claim. If you feel you may have a valid compensation claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.
Can I claim for funeral expenses and financial losses?
The ability to claim compensation following the wrongful death of a loved one is set out in two specific pieces of legislation:
While it is possible to claim for funeral expenses under both Acts, double-recovery is not permitted. Claims for funeral expenses are most often brought under the 1976 Act, provided they were paid for by the dependants. You can only recover expenditures that are reasonable in all the circumstances. In most cases, this will not include:
- The cost of funeral clothes
- The wake
- The costs of probate
- The memorial service
On the other hand, the funeral elements which are recoverable, as long as they are reasonable, include:
- The cost of a memorial or monument
- The headstone
- Embalming the body
- Transporting the body to the grave
Past financial losses can only be claimed under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934. These cover all the costs incurred between the date of the accident and the date of death. The calculation for financial losses is the same as in any other personal injury claim and includes:
- Loss of earnings
- Medical costs of treatments and interventions
- Adaptations to your home or vehicle
- Costs of care and assistance
- Travel and parking costs for visiting them in the hospital
- Costs of aids and equipment
For more information on how you could recover funeral expenses and financial losses by making a fatal injury claim, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
How much is the statutory bereavement award?
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, a limited number of people can claim bereavement damages in case of losing their loved one in a fatal accident. The bereavement award acts as recognition that your loved one suffered a wrongful death and aims to compensate for your grief and suffering. It is, however, limited to:
- Spouses or civil partners
- The parents of an unmarried child under 18, if legitimate
- The mother of an unmarried child under 18, if illegitimate
- A partner who lived together with the deceased as a spouse or civil partner for at least two years
There is only one bereavement award, and it must be equally divided between the eligible claimants. Following the Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) (England and Wales) Order 2020, the award was increased from £12,980 to £15,120. The increase only applies to families that lost a loved one on or after 1st May 2020.
How much compensation can you claim for a fatal accident?
If you lost a loved one in a fatal accident caused by another party’s negligence, you might be eligible for fatal accident compensation. There are two statutes that set out the ability to make a claim and what the compensation award could cover:
The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 allows a fatal accident claim to be brought on behalf of the deceased’s estate for:
- The pain and suffering they endured in the period between injury and death
- Any financial losses incurred between the date of the accident and passing away
- Funeral expenses, if they were covered by the deceased’s estate
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 allows dependants of the deceased to make a fatal accident claim for:
- The losses suffered due to the passing away of their loved one, such as financial support and services
- Funeral expenses, if they were covered by the dependants
- Bereavement damages awarded to a limited category of people
While the bereavement award is currently a fixed lump sum of £15,120, other compensation amounts you might receive will strictly depend on your unique circumstances.
Compensation for general damages aims to reflect the degree of pain and anguish experienced by your loved one before their death. The fatal injury compensation you could receive is based on the guidelines published by the Judicial College. Some examples of these amounts are listed below:
- £11,770 to £22,350 for death from lung damage or severe burns with temporary full awareness. It also covers invasive treatments or physical injuries causing death within three months.
- £9,870 to £10,010 for lung damage or severe burns causing unconsciousness within three hours and death within two weeks
- £3,530 to £4,120 for accidents causing immediate unconsciousness and death within six weeks
- £1,290 to £2,620 for an accident causing immediate unconsciousness and death within a week
- £4,380 compensation for mental anguish caused by the thought of impending death
If you make a fatal accident claim under the 1934 Act, you could also ask for compensation for any financial losses incurred by the deceased before their death. This includes lost wages, costs of care and support and medical expenses. The compensation award is calculated by summing up all the reasonable expenditures you incurred.
In a dependency claim, the amount of compensation you could receive depends on several factors, such as the annual income of the deceased, their pension, bonuses and investments. It also considers the amount of time they spent doing regular jobs around the house and, if applicable, providing child care.
How long do I have to claim fatal accident compensation?
You will usually have three years to make a fatal accident claim in the UK. Under the Limitation Act 1980, the time limit starts to run from the date of death or the date of knowledge of what caused the fatal injury. After three years, the case becomes time-barred, and it is no longer possible to claim compensation.
There are some exceptions to the three-year limitation date:
- If a child loses a loved one, the three-year limitation period to make a fatal accident claim starts once they turn 18. Thus, they will have up to the age of 21 to formally initiate a compensation claim.
- If there is expert evidence that a claimant lacks mental capacity, there is no time limit for a litigation friend to claim fatal accident compensation on their behalf. Nonetheless, the sooner you seek legal advice, the easier it is to prove a case and secure compensation.
- If you lost a loved one to a criminal injury, you could make a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). The time limit is usually two years from the date of the assault or the date of death.
- If a loved one passed away due to medical negligence, you could start a claim within three years after learning the reason for their death was negligence.
- You could claim fatal injury compensation if a loved one lost their life in an accident abroad. The time limits vary from country to country and are very short in some places.
It is always better to begin the claims process as soon as possible. Your solicitor might have to do a lot of work before filing the claim, so the longer they have, the better. Also, some solicitors might be reluctant to take on your case if you seek legal advice with little time left until the claim limitation date.
To find out what time limit might apply to your case or if you have any other questions, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser.
Can I make a fatal accident claim using no win no fee?
Most fatal accident claims can be made using a no win no fee service. Also known as a conditional fee agreement (CFA), this means that you do not have to pay any solicitor fees if you do not win the case. Once your solicitor accepts your case, you will only pay them if you receive compensation.
Another major advantage of making a no win no fee fatal injury claim is that you do not have to worry about legal costs. If you lose your claim, you have full financial coverage thanks to an After the Event (ATE) insurance policy. This means you won’t have to pay a penny.
The ATE insurance is a type of legal expenses insurance policy that your solicitor will sign up to in your name at the beginning of the claim. It covers all the expenses involved in claiming, both for you and the defendant, including legal costs, barrister and expert witness fees and medical reports.
No win no fee is the preferred way to claim because it involves no upfront fees or hidden charges. You can bring a fatal accident claim regardless of your financial situation, and if you lose, you will not incur any out of pocket expenses.
If your claim is successful, you will only have to pay a success fee to your solicitor. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation, and you will agree to it before starting legal proceedings.