We are sadly contacted all too frequently by grieving relatives following the death of a close family member.
It is obviously an extremely sad time and regardless of any legal questions that arise from the circumstances of the death and reason for this, clients usually wish to know what rights are given to them by the law.
Your Rights under the law
In brief, there are two main pieces of legislation which have been in place for a long time now:
one deals with the monies that can be claimed by and thus credited, when received, to the “estate” (essentially the deceased’s assets, if any, which were not inherited automatically by another) of the deceased;
the other deals with claims by members of the deceased’s family and his dependants.
In every case below, the damages referred to are not paid as of right but only where legal responsibility for the death falls upon someone else.
1. The Estate
Under the (un)wonderfully named Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934, the estate
(i.e. beneficiaries named in the deceased’s Will or else those – where there was no valid Will – entitled to receive the monies according to the “Intestacy Rules”) can claim the following:
a) funeral expenses e.g. headstone/memorial costs and often monies paid for a post funeral reception or wake;
b) the cost of any property damaged and/or in an accident;
c) damages for any pain and suffering experienced by the deceased between the date of accident or onset of disease and the date of his/her death
2. The deceased’s family
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 a number of payments may be made.
a) for deaths after 1.1.08 there is a set sum of £11,800.00 payable as a so-called “bereavement award” (it was £10,000.00 for deaths up to the end of 2007); this amount should be updated soon but the Ministry of Justice or its predecessor bodies have always been very tardy in doing so.
Most people will be shocked to learn that this award is only made to
i) parents of a “legitimate” child under the age of 18
ii) legal spouse of the deceased (i.e. not an unmarried partner)
Obviously this excludes children from making a claim for the death of their parent, and also common law/unmarried co-habitees (arguments that this breaches the Human Rights Act have thus far failed).
The award is in theory compensation for the loss of the loved one but clearly the amount is arbitrary and menial although, in defence of the government, any amount would arguably be so.
b) an award for the value of a dependency upon the deceased can also be made under the Fatal Accidents Act, provided
first, if the Claimant was genuinely financially dependent on the deceased at the date of his/her death, or
relied on his services (which had a financial value), or
can show a reasonable expectation of receiving such financial benefit in the future, whether from the deceased’s earnings or services,
(again) if the dependant is within the permissible class of claimants as follows:-
i) spouses or former spouses
ii) unmarried spouses if were living together at the date of death and had been for a minimum of 2 years
iii) parents (and those treated as parents) and grandparents
iv) any child, grandchild, great grand child etc of the deceased, or person treated by the deceased as a child of the family
v) any brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the children, or their child.
“Dependency” can amount to a loss of income, or loss of the deceased’s services (whether paid for or not), loss of a benefit, loss of an expected gift, or any loss incurred due to the death.
What can Lloyd Green do for you?
We have extensive experience in dealing with matters of this sort, and will happily give you all the information you need in respect of your rights to financial compensation, and thereafter (if you so wish) represent you or your family in any formal legal compensation claim, which is often very complex, and almost always both stressful and distressing.
We frequently handle such cases following both accidents and clinical negligence incidents and you can therefore feel confident and reassured that the service and expertise you receive will be second to none.