No amount of money can ever compensate for the death of a loved one. However, compensation can be crucial in assisting bereaved family members to cope financially.
In order to bring a successful claim for compensation following a fatal accident, you must prove that the person who caused the accident was negligent. Our medical negligence solicitors have been instrumental in helping families bring fatal accident and inquest cases to a successful resolution.
There are two main kinds of claim that a family can bring:
A claim brought on behalf of the person that has died (the ‘deceased’s estate’)
Claims made in their own right by family and dependants left behind who have been financially reliant on the person who has died. A limited number of close relatives can also claim for their bereavement.
The deceased’s Estate refers to the property and assets left behind. If at the time of death, they had a claim for compensation, then that right to claim will form part of the Estate.
Those entitled to bring a claim on behalf of the Estate are able to claim compensation that the deceased person would have been entitled to, had they survived. The award can be made up of the following:
Pain, Suffering and Loss of Amenity – compensation for any period in which the deceased suffered pain or restrictions on what they could do prior to their death.
Financial Losses – a claim for financial losses can be made to recover any expenses that the deceased incurred as a direct consequence of the accident, such as loss of earnings, care expenses of professional carers, friends or relatives, travel expenses, medication costs and funeral expenses (as long as they are ‘reasonable’).
Dependents of the deceased can claim for the financial support that they would have received from the person who has died; this includes their earnings, pension and any other income.
To be in a position to recover this compensation, the claimant must be able to show that they had a reasonable expectation of benefitting financially from the deceased.
The claimant needs to show that the chance of receiving some financial benefit was ‘substantial’, rather than just a possibility.
In addition to this financial support, a claim may also be made for the loss of the deceased’s services during their lifetime. Such services include gardening, DIY and services as a parent.
To bring a loss of dependency claim the claimant must be one of the following;
The wife, husband or former spouse of the deceased;
The civil partner or former civil partner of the deceased;
A cohabitee – effectively as living as the husband or wife of the deceased and was doing so for a period of at least two years prior to death;
Any parent or another ascendant of the deceased;
Any person who was treated by the deceased as their parent;
Any child or other descendent;
Any person (who is not a child) 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; or
Any brother, sister, uncle or aunt.
Claims for ‘loss of love and affection’ are also possible in certain circumstances.
A limited number of close relatives of the deceased can claim compensation for a bereavement they may have suffered.
The current level of bereavement compensation in England and Wales is £12,980 for deaths that occurred on or after 1 April 2013.
This sum can only be claimed by the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, or the parents of a deceased child under the age of 18.
In England and Wales, a coroner will hold an inquest when they are notified of a death that was violent, unnatural or, in the case of a sudden death, where the cause is unknown.
Sometimes the coroner and the family will disagree over whether an inquest should be opened. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to challenge a coroner’s decision not to hold an inquest.
A fatal accident will often be followed by an inquest hearing. This is a fact-finding process whereby a coroner will seek to determine the identity of the person who has died, the place and time of their death and the cause of death. Inquests are not a means of establishing fault, however, the evidence raised at an inquest will often assist when considering bringing a claim for compensation.
It is difficult to deal with the loss of a loved one, particularly where the death was unexpected or unnatural and you are faced with an inquest.
The inquest can be an opportunity for families to have questions answered and the opportunity to gain a better understanding of what occurred and why.
If it transpires that there may be underlying factors that have caused or contributed to the death, our team of expert solicitors in offices across Essex and London can explore these issues and ensure that you have suitable and sufficient representation at the inquest.
The coroner is in charge of the hearing and will call witnesses to give evidence and ask them to answer questions. Families and their legal representatives also have the opportunity to ask the witnesses questions. At the end of an inquest the coroner will make findings as to the cause of the death and, although they will not say who is at fault, the verdict may confirm a medical issue that needs to be explored through a civil claim.
Once the inquest is over, your solicitor can consider the evidence in detail and decide whether a medical negligence claim is possible.
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