We are regularly approached by individuals looking to instigate workplace accident claims on behalf of a friend or close family member. The following questions are often key in our discussions.
Can I make a claim on behalf of someone else who has been seriously injured in a workplace accident?
In law, a next friend is the individual who represents another person who is under a legal disability such as, for example, if they are unable to maintain a compensation claim on their own behalf because of mental incapacity.
So if a loved one has been left with a mental impairment arising out of a workplace injury to the extent that they are legally deemed not to be capable of looking after their own interests (which can often happen where there has been a head injury sustained in an occupational accident), a relative – usually their spouse, a parent or a child – will be authorised to bring the action on their behalf.
This next friend will have complete authority to run the proceedings on the injured worker’s behalf up until the point that a settlement has been reached at which point it must be put before a judge who must then be satisfied that the amount of the settlement represents adequate compensation for the injured person on whose behalf the claim is being brought.
A settlement will need to be ruled by a court regardless of whether or not the next friend’s legal advisors are recommending its acceptance, but of course the judge will be heavily influenced by whether or not the injured person’s legal team believes that the amount on offer represents proper compensation.
Workers who have been left mentally impaired by an accident also receive different treatment for taxation purposes. Normally under Irish tax law an amount received in compensation is not liable to income tax but any income which is derived from investing this compensation payment will be taxable.
However, a total exemption from income tax is available in the case of any personal injuries compensation payment and all income arising from the investment of that payment provided that the person receiving the compensation is, as a result of the injury, permanently and totally incapacitated from looking after themselves and they have no other source of income.
If someone is fatally injured in a workplace accident does the family have any right to be compensated?
If a loved one has been fatally injured at work and the death can be shown to be as a result of the negligence or breach of statutory duty of the employer, the dependants of the deceased worker are entitled to bring a claim for compensation arising out of the wrongful death.
The statutory definition of who is a “dependent” includes a spouse, parent, grandparent, stepparent, child, grandchild, stepchild, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, or someone who was cohabiting with the deceased person for more than three years at the time of death.
While it will be seen from this definition that many people who are related to a deceased person might have a potential claim arising out of their wrongful death, only one claim may be brought for the benefit of all of them. In other words, a deceased worker’s spouse could not bring one action with a child then bringing another separate action – they would both have to state their claim in one set of proceedings. Therefore whoever brings an action for wrongful death must do so on behalf of all of the statutory dependants and the court will then decide on who gets what.
Generally speaking a wrongful death claim must be commenced within two years of the date of death.
Compensation in fatal injuries claims is broken down into three general categories as follows:
- Mental distress. The maximum amount of damages that can be awarded to dependants of a deceased person in wrongful death cases is €35,000.
- Expenses incurred as a result of the death such as the cost of burial, plane fares and accommodation costs for travel to and from the funeral by relatives living abroad, etc.
- Loss of financial dependency. Anyone who was dependent on a deceased worker for their financial wellbeing (which is usually their husband or wife and any minor children) will be entitled to an amount in damages to be calculated by making the assumption that the deceased worker had continued to live and earn wages up to retirement age. This can often be a very complicated calculation which will require the input of specialist experts such as forensic accountants and actuaries.
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If you have any questions about injuries you or your friend or family member has endured in the work environment, our live chat operator is available to help you with any queries you may have at any time or, you can just give us a call on our nationwide Local number 1890 390 555 during office hours. Our workplace accident claims * solicitors are based at our offices in Dublin and Cork, however we assist people across the country from Limerick to Galway.
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*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.