Fatal Injury Claims
Dealing with the death of a loved one
If you or a person close to you is involved in a serious accident then it can have a devastating effect upon the rest of your life. Emotionally, a serious injury to a loved one can leave a life-long mark, and financially, if the injured person was the main breadwinner, the injury can lead to difficulties getting by day-to-day.
In the very worst cases, of course, the victim of an accident may suffer a fatality due to the severity of their injuries, and if someone close to you has been killed then the chances are that, in the first wave of shock and grief, the last thing you’ll be thinking of is claiming compensation.
However, if your loved one died as a result of the negligence of a third party, claiming the compensation to which you’re entitled would achieve two very important things. The first of these is that a lump sum will enable you to feel that justice has been done and that you haven’t been left to cope on your own in the wake of the worst that life can throw at you. The second factor included in any compensation paid out will be an amount to ensure that the accident and its’ aftermath won’t have left you any worse off financially. In the case of a fatal accident, this may mean being compensated for the lost earnings of the main wage-earner of a family, something which will have financial ramifications going forward many years.
Deaths in the workplace
If the claim is being pursued following a fatality which occurred in the workplace, then the employer in question will be liable if they can be proved to be negligent under the auspices of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as well the Management of Health and Safety at work Regulations 1999. The requirements of these two pieces of legislation are that an employer must carry out a risk assessment and implement the health and safety measures identified as being required by this assessment.
In many cases, a fatality will occur after a single incident such as a fall from height or an accident involving a workplace vehicle, but in some circumstances people may die many years after leaving work due to a disease or illness which they contracted because of the conditions they were allowed to work in. The fact that deaths from asbestosis (a lung disease caused by breathing in excess asbestos dust) are still on the rise in the UK many years after the use of the substance was made illegal is testament to how poor working conditions in UK workplaces used to be, and a useful corrective to the widespread misconception that compensation claims are running out of control.
The statistics for asbestos related fatalities in the year 2015 are as follows:
- Deaths from mesothelioma – 2542
- Deaths from asbestosis without mention of mesothelioma – 467
The figures also show the number of new cases in 2016:
- Newly assessed cases of asbestosis – 1050
- Newly assessed cases of diffuse pleural thickening – 425
Occupations known to have exposed workers to the risk of exposure to asbestos:
- Carpenters and Joiners
- Boiler, Pipe and Heating Workers
- Shipbuilding/Shipyard Workers
- Navy Seamen
- Laggers and Sprayers
- Plumbers and Gasfitters
- Construction and Demolition Workers
- Painters and Decorators
- Railway Workers and Coach Construction
- Power Station Workers
- Laboratory and Research
- Asbestos Manufacture and Sales
In most personal injury cases a time limit of 3 years applies from the date upon which the accident occurs, but in the case of industrial illness, this 3 year period begins on the date upon which the link between the illness and the negligent working conditions becomes apparent. Clearly, this may be many years after a person leaves work and even, perhaps, after they have actually died of their condition. As soon as you become aware that a fatality may have been caused by an industrial disease you should contact a personal injury lawyer. The sooner they can begin looking into your case, the more likely they are to be able to pin-point the precise source of the negligence.
How compensation is calculated
The amount of compensation you may be awarded following the death of a loved one will be calculated made up of several different components.
Actual Losses – these are intended to cover costs incurred whilst caring for the injured person prior to their death as well as expenses such as funeral costs. If the fatality was delayed for a while, the compensation may also cover actual loss of earnings and anything related to care such as medical fees, alterations to living spaces etc.
Bereavement – under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 the spouse of a deceased person, or parents of a deceased child are eligible for a lump sum payment of £12,980 following a fatal accident.
Dependency – the remainder of any compensation awarded will be paid to any dependents who relied upon the income of the deceased person. The calculation will take into account loss of earnings as well as future losses such as a loss of pension provision and any other work related income such as bonuses and healthcare benefits.
If a person is suffering from a fatal illness brought about by negligence, it may well provide some comfort in their final months to know that an experienced personal injury lawyer is working to ensure that their loved ones will be provided for. In many cases, an interim payment can be made before the final settlement is reached.
Claiming compensation following a fatal injury
In the event of a fatal injury the same kind of time constraints apply as is the case with other injuries, which is to say that there is a limit of three years from the death of the injured party during which you are able to make a claim. The basis of any claim must be medical evidence of an actual injury – in the case of a fatality this goes without saying – and then evidence which demonstrates that the third party being sued was responsible for the fatality through some act of negligence. In the wake of a fatality you’ll be in no fit state to put together such a case alone, so you should pass on as much information as possible to an expert personal injury lawyer, working on a no win no fee basis.
In general terms, anyone who is a close family member of the victim is able to launch a claim for compensation. In the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 the qualifying parties were set out as being:
- The wife, husband or former wife or husband of the victim.
- The civil partner or former civil partner of the deceased.
- Anyone who had been living as a husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased for at least two years at the time of the accident.
- Anyone who was a parent of the victim, or treated by the victim as a parent.
- Any child or other descendant of the victim.
- Any child who, via marriage or civil partnership, was treated as a child of the deceased.
- Any brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased.
As can be seen, the list is fairly wide ranging so the best thing to do in the event of losing someone close to you, if you feel another party may have been to blame, is to give the details of the accident and your relationship to a personal injury lawyer. No amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one, but it can help to make the pain somewhat easier to bear.