Tragically, a significant number of accidents result in a fatality. Where a family member dies as a result of a road traffic accident, work accident or other incident it can have a devastating effect on the deceased’s family and cause considerable hardship. If a loved one has died as a result of another’s wrongdoing it may be possible to pursue a claim for compensation against the wrongdoer and the wrongdoer’s insurance company.
While no amount of money could ever compensate for the loss of a loved one, a fatal injury claim may ease the financial burden and help provide for the deceased’s dependents. At Browne and Murphy Solicitors we have considerable experience in dealing with fatal injury claims and do so with sensitivity and compassion. We aim to take the stress out of what is already a traumatic time guiding you through the process and ensuring that at all times you are in safe and capable hands.
When a fatal injury occurs as a result of an accident an inquest is held to establish the cause of death. An Inquest is a public hearing which is presided over by a coroner and which is usually held within a few months of the fatal accident. It should be noted that the purpose of the Inquest is not to apportion blame. The family or any interested party at the discretion of the coroner may be legally represented at the Inquest.
The outcome of an Inquest can have a significant bearing on any subsequent claim arising from a fatal accident, including life insurance claims. As a consequence, it is always advisable to have your interests represented by a solicitor at an Inquest particularly as it presents an opportunity to question the medical attendants and other witnesses involved.
Making a Claim*
A fatal injury claim is usually brought to protect the good name and reputation of the deceased and to seek compensation for the deceased’s dependants. The legal representative of the deceased is entitled to pursue a claim for damages however proceedings must be brought within 6 months following the date of death. Thereafter, the deceased’s dependents may bring a fatal injury claim.
To pursue a claim you will need to have been dependent on the deceased for financial support, have suffered financial loss and distress as a result of the fatal accident and be related to the deceased. Dependents are generally close family members and include:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Cohabiting partner of deceased (subject to certain conditions)
- Brother or Sister
- Stepmother or Stepfather
- Stepbrother or Stepsister
Fatal injury compensation claims can be divided into 3 distinct heads of damage:
- Special Damages: these are recoverable funeral and other expenses, including the legal costs of attending an Inquest, and are added as part of the claim made against the third party alleged to have negligently caused the death of the deceased.
- Solatium: this is a statutory created set payment available to dependents to compensate them for the mental distress and anguish caused by the death of the deceased. It is a lump sum payment which is divided between the deceased’s dependents and capped at €35,000. This payment is distinct and separate to any individual claim made by a dependent for ‘nervous shock’ (see below).
- Loss of Dependency: this head of damages refers to the loss of financial support suffered by the dependents as a result of the untimely death of the deceased. It is calculated from the date of death and takes into account the life expectancy of the deceased and other factors.
Nervous Shock Claims*
In addition, family members who witnessed the accident or the immediate aftermath may be in a position to pursue a separate claim if they have suffered psychological trauma. This type of claim is often described as a ‘nervous shock’ or post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD) claim.
Fatal injury claims can be quite complex and expert legal advice should always be sought.
If you would to discuss a fatal accident or any matter that concerns you, please contact us for a consultation.