Fatal accident compensation claims

Nurses taking notes

Our personal injury solicitors are here to provide legal advice and support following a fatal accident.

Losing a loved one in a fatal accident is an utterly devastating event that can come suddenly and without warning. There are likely to be many unanswered questions about how the death occurred and it can be difficult to know where to turn or what to do next.

This is where we can help you. Our Personal Injury Solicitors are here to provide legal advice and support following a fatal accident. We can talk you through the Fatal Accident Claims process, conduct a free assessment of your claim and help you to take that first step.

Fatal accident claim frequently asked questions:

At Co-op Legal Services most claims can be dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis.

What is a fatal accident claim?

A fatal accident is an accident that results in a person's death. When someone dies from injuries caused by an accident, and that accident was caused by the actions or negligence of someone else, it may be possible for their loved ones to make a Fatal Accident Claim. A Fatal Accident Claim allows the family and/or dependents of the person who died to seek justice for their loss, to hold those responsible to account for their actions, and to claim compensation.

While it can never make up for the devastating loss of a loved one, the compensation received from a Fatal Accident Claim can help to alleviate the financial burden that this loss has placed on the family.

Fatal Accident Claims can apply in a number of situations, including:

A fatal accident claim sets out to:

  • determine who is responsible for the fatal accident/injury and hold them to account for their actions

  • establish what measures are required to reduce the risk of a similar accident occurring again

  • alleviate any financial pressures the deceased's family might suffer because of their loss, such as funeral costs and expenses

  • compensate the family for the trauma that they've suffered, and minimise the financial impact of their loss as much as possible

Who can make a fatal accident claim?

The Executors or Administrators of the deceased person's Estate can bring a Fatal Accident Claim on behalf of the deceased. The Executor or Administrator is the person responsible for dealing with the deceased's assets, property and money, and this includes any legal claims.

The Executor or Administrator can bring a fatal accident claim for:

  • the pain and suffering the deceased may have suffered before their death expenses incurred by the Estate, such as the funeral costs and related expenses

  • any of the deceased's property that was damaged in the accident

  • if there was a protracted period after the accident, a claim can be made for losses suffered by the deceased before they died, such as a loss of income

In addition, there are certain other individuals who are entitled to make a claim for loss of services or financial dependency.

These individuals include:

  • the deceased's current or former spouse or civil partner

  • the deceased's cohabiting partner (providing they'd been living together for at least 2 years)

  • the deceased's parent or grandparent, or someone they treated as a parent

  • the deceased's child, stepchild or other descendant

  • the deceased's brother, sister, aunt or uncle (or their children)

Any claims by either the Executors / Administrators or the deceased's relatives should all be made at the same time.

How much compensation is a fatal accident claim worth?

The amount of payout from a Fatal Accident Claim will depend on the individual circumstances of the claim, and can vary dramatically as a result. There are a number of factors that need to be considered when calculating compensation in a Fatal Accident Claim.

These include:

  • Financial Dependency - Whether anyone was financially dependent on the deceased e.g. lost earnings, lost pension, or other business income

    If any family members were financially dependent on the deceased, then this will be taken into account. Family members who can claim financial dependency include spouses, civil partners or partners who cohabited for at least two years, as well as children of the deceased.

  • Loss of Services - The Solicitor will look at whether family members relied on the deceased for certain services, which they are now without. This could be for example childcare, DIY, gardening, shopping or even dog walking.

  • Funeral expenses - Expenses, such as the cost of the funeral, can also be included in the Fatal Accident Claim. This would include the headstone and flowers but not the wake or a memorial.

  • Statuary Bereavement Award - The deceased's spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner may also claim for a separate award, called a Bereavement Award. This is an amount of money awarded for suffering the loss of a loved one, as opposed to being compensated for grief.

    Previously this was only available to the spouse or civil partner, until the Court of Appeal ruled that cohabiting partners should also be entitled to claim Bereavement Awards. This ruling was on the basis that refusing cohabiting partners this award breached their Human Rights. In addition the parents of a child under the age of 18 may also be entitled to claim the Bereavement Award. This is a fixed payment, and at present is set at £15,120.

  • The loss of intangible benefits

    In addition, a claim can also be brought for less tangible benefits that have been lost as a result of the untimely death of a loved one, like the loss of companionship or love.

    So, as you can see, there's a lot that needs to be considered when calculating the value of compensation. When you make a Fatal Accident Claim, your Serious Injury Solicitor will calculate the right and fair amount of compensation on your behalf, taking all these factors into account. They will also carry out all negotiations with the other side, and commence litigation if needed.

    While a Fatal Accident Claim is ongoing, it is often possible to secure interim payments to help cover funeral costs and related expenses, which can help to alleviate immediate financial stress on the family.

How long does a fatal accident claim take?

Fatal Accident Claims are complex by nature and can take time to settle. While your Personal Injury Solicitor will try to achieve a settlement as quickly as possible, it's important that thorough and exhaustive investigations are carried out during the claim. This will help you to get a full and fair compensation settlement.

This means Fatal Accident Claims (particularly complex ones) could take two or more years to settle.

Time limit for fatal accident claims

In the UK here is a strict time limit for making a fatal accident claim. This deadline is three years from the date of death.

The deadline for making a claim is called 'statutory limitation' and legal proceedings in Court must be started before this deadline is reached. If the deadline is missed then it will not be possible to make a Fatal Accident Claim (except in exceptional circumstances).

Will the Coroner be involved?

When someone has died as a result of a fatal accident, their death will be referred to the Coroner. We understand that it can be unnerving when the Coroner becomes involved, but it's actually more common than you might think. In the UK, currently around 45% of all deaths are reported to the Coroner.

As long as you understand the process and what you need to do, then there's really no reason to be concerned.

What will the Coroner do?

The role of the Coroner is not to apportion blame, but simply to establish the facts of the death. This includes:

  • who died
  • when they died
  • where they died
  • how they died

The Coroner will carry out some initial investigations and they may then decide to conduct a post-mortem to help establish these facts. When investigating a fatal accident, the Coroner will usually hold an inquest into the death. Not every death that is reported to the Coroner will require a Coroner's Inquest Hearing, but any death caused by a fatal accident will usually result in an inquest unless the matter is the subject of a criminal prosecution, perhaps because of a charge of death by careless or dangerous driving. In these cases the coroner will not hold an inquest as the investigation into the cause of the death will usually form part of the criminal court process.

An inquest will be held for any one of the following reasons:

  • The facts of the death have not been established by initial investigations or a post-mortem
  • The person died while they were in police custody or prison
  • There's a possibility that the cause of death was violent or unnatural

A fatal accident falls into the final category in this list, and so an inquest into the death will need to be held. This is an official public investigation into the death, which involves one or more Court hearings.

If you need support, guidance or representation during the Coroner and Inquest process, our Coroner and Inquest Solicitors are on hand to help you. We can provide you with comprehensive advice and guidance, as well as providing you with representation at the hearing itself.

Proving fault in a fatal accident claim

Proving fault in a fatal accident claim comes back down to the coroner's process, as the coroner will establish how, when and where the death happened.

Your Personal Injury Solicitor will work with the coroner and review the available evidence to help determine who is at fault and establish the circumstances surrounding the death.

This may include obtaining witness statements, including from those who were present either during, before or after the accident. Witnesses don't necessarily have to have been at or near the scene when the accident occurred though. For example, a road accident witness may have been someone who saw a driver behaving recklessly earlier in the day. Or a witness to an accident at work could be someone who had previously reported a hazard which wasn't addressed, or someone who had seen similar, less serious accidents occur in the same location before.

Your Solicitor will also review any photographic evidence that's available, or arrange for photographs to be taken retrospectively if applicable. The Solicitor may also decide that it's necessary to visit the accident location, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the environment in which the accident took place.

Other available evidence could include footage from CCTV or from a dash or helmet cam. If the accident happened in a workplace or a public space such as a shopping mall, then the accident book can also be reviewed as part of the investigatory work.

For Medical Negligence Claims, medical records and appropriate experts will also provide valuable evidence.

Once fault has been established, your Solicitor will calculate a fair amount of compensation and engage in negotiations with the other side. If the other side denies fault, then your Solicitor will enter into litigation with them.

What is a fatal medical negligence claim?

In some cases, medical negligence can be a contributing factor to the death. If negligent or poor medical treatment may have been a contributing factor, the first step is to report the matter to the Coroner. The Coroner will review the circumstances and decide whether the Coronor's Court should open an inquest. Once the inquest is opened the Coroner will investigate the full circumstances surrounding the death of the patient.

The Coroner has a range of verdicts but if they believe that medical negligence did occur, a claim can then be made against the hospital for compensation. A claim for financial losses can also be made if the family were dependent too.

No win no fee fatal accident claims

When researching Personal Injury and Medical Negligence Solicitors, it's important to establish the fees that they will charge along with how and when you will be required to pay these. Some Solicitors may bill throughout the claim, while others will not request payment until the claim has been settled. While fees should not be the only factor taken into account, it is an important consideration to bear in mind.

We understand that uncertainty around costs can often be a barrier for people when seeking legal services. This is why we offer complete transparency around our fees, and with our no win no fee service, there are no upfront costs to pay.

We may also recommend you take out After the Event Insurance, to protect your financial position from the other side's costs or your own legal expenses. We will of course discuss the appropriate options that are available to you.

With a no win no fee agreement, if your claim is unsuccessful, then there will be no fee to pay. It's as simple as that.

If your claim is successful, then we will deduct our success fee from the final settlement of compensation once this has been received from the other side. We will already have agreed the fee rate with you before beginning work on your claim, so there will be no unexpected surprises.

How to make a fatal accident claim

We understand that following the death of a loved one, making a Fatal Accident Claim may not be the first thing on your mind. When you are ready to take that first step, we're here to guide and support you through every step of the way. Our Personal Injury Solicitors can help you to better understand the process, talk you through your options and explain what might be involved.

Speak to our Personal Injury Solicitors or Medical Negligence Solicitors to get initial advice as well as a free, no obligation assessment of your fatal accident claim.

If you do choose to instruct us to take, your claim will be assigned to a dedicated Solicitor, experienced in Fatal Accident and Serious Injury Claims. Your Solicitor will support you through the process, from start to finish and act on your behalf. This includes gathering evidence to support your claim and negotiating with the other side to achieve a fair compensation settlement. If the other side denies responsibility for the accident, then your Solicitor will consider commencing Court proceedings.

Your Solicitor will take the time to fully understand the circumstances surrounding the claim and the impact that the death has had on loved ones. They will calculate the value of compensation based on a number of factors, including: - Whether anyone was financially dependent on the deceased - Whether anyone depended on the deceased for services (this could be anything from dog walking to DIY) - The cost of the funeral - Any intangible benefits that have been lost (such as companionship or love)

Your Solicitor will then negotiate with the other side and work hard to achieve a full and fair compensation settlement for you.

During Fatal Accident Claims we are often able to secure interim payments before the case has settled, to help ease the financial burden. We can also take on most Fatal Accident Claims on a no win no fee basis.

Fatal accident claim case studies