Fatal Accidents and Wrongful Death

4 October 2016

Death of a loved one is something which we will all have to deal with at some point in our lives. It may fall to you to arrange a funeral or a cremation, and to deal with all the formalities surrounding the death. The Scottish Government has published a very useful booklet entitled “What to do in the Event of a Death – Practical Advice for times of Bereavement” which gives up to date guidance and all the official steps which you will have to take.

There is simply no getting away from what is inevitably a very difficult and sorrowful time.

You may have to deal with an even more devastating scenario; when your loved one is killed in an accident or succumbs to a fatal disease. This brief note provides some guidance as to who might have a legal claim to damages following such a death and how any award of damages might be calculated. Typical examples are deaths in a car accident, a workplace accident, or where someone has died from an asbestos related disease. In these cases to obtain any compensation you will have to show fault or negligence. In common sense terms this means you will have to show that something was done which shouldn’t have been done, or something by way of precaution should have been done but wasn’t.

The key principle in all of this is that it is not just about what happened, IT’S WHAT YOU CAN PROVE. Although it may be the last thing on your mind, you should think about contacting a lawyer sooner rather than later, and then leave it to the lawyer to identify, obtain and keep the necessary evidence.

Who Can Claim? – The Damages (Scotland) Act 2011

If you can prove that someone was at fault there is quite an extensive list of relatives who might have a claim. The first category is what might be described as Grief and Sorrow Claimants. This is the category of person which the law says are entitled to money compensation for the grief and sorrow which they are suffering because of the death. So typically this will include:-

  • Spouses and partners
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Grandchildren

The other category relates to Financial or Economic Loss Claimants. This is where as a relative you have lost financial support as a result of the death. The same person may be able to claim under both categories. So if a wife has lost a husband, she will be entitled to claim for grief and sorrow , as well as financial contribution to the household.

Typical Awards

Some people have argued that because no amount of money can properly compensate for the loss of a loved one, any financial award should be nominal. This remains the position in England, but the Scottish Government has adopted a much more enlightened approach. In Scotland we also have the influence of the jury system whereby ordinary people like you and me with real experience of the importance of relationships and the value of money are asked to quantify the awards. The undernoted is a list of recent jury awards in fatal cases. (Judge awards tend to be a bit lower) They relate to grief and sorrow only, and they are fact specific depending on the closeness of the relationship. But they can provide a general guidance as to the kind of amounts involved. In addition you can recover expenses and outlays caused by the death e.g. funeral expenses and the like.

Widow/widower for death of spouse or partner - Approximately £30,000.00

Grown Up Children for Death of a Parent - Approximately £40,000.00

Grandchildren for Death of Grandparent - Approximately £15,000.00

Brothers/sisters - Approximately £30,000.00

Parent for death of child - Approximately £80,000.00

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