Losing a close family member in a fatal accident is one of the most traumatic events that anyone can experience in life. We understand this may be a very difficult time for you and that you may have uncertainties about making a claim * against the person responsible for your family member’s death. Fatal accidents are somewhat unusual in terms of the system of compensation that applies where someone has died as a result of injuries suffered in an accident. Below you will find details of how fatal accident claims are treated under Irish law.
Instigating a compensation claim
It is the worst thing that can happen for the people who are left behind but the scheme provided under Part IV of the Civil Liability Act, 1961 means compensation by way of damages for injury causing death are capped at €35,000. While there can be a claim for other ancillary costs and expenses, the amount that can be recovered compared with say if the person had survived but been very badly injured, is substantially less.
However, if there is a situation where the person who has died as a result of the accident had been responsible for providing financially for a family and was killed leaving dependents, then there will be a claim arising by those dependants for the loss that they have suffered as a result of being deprived of the income and support that they received from the deceased person. In that case, the value of that income and support would need to be calculated on an annual basis and then a capital sum arrived at on an actuarial basis based on the period for which the dependent could have expected to continue to be a dependant of the deceased person.
Indeed, the loss of benefit arising to a dependent in this way need not only be a financial loss arising on the death of a breadwinner in a family. It can be any manner of benefit that can be converted into a monetary sum. If, for instance, you had a child with elderly parents for whom the child came and provided services to help them (say doing the shopping and washing and that kind thing), even though no money ever changed hands for what was done, if that child were killed in a fatal accident and were no longer available to do what they had been accustomed to doing for their parents, they would then have to pay somebody else to do this for them instead, you would work out what it would cost to provide a replacement for those services and that cost would form part of the claim.
Similarly, if you have a husband or wife in a situation where one party doesn’t work full time but takes care of all of the domestic duties on behalf of the family, tending to the household, child care, etc., in the event of the loss of that care giver the cost of providing professional care to replace what had been done previously free of charge would need to be calculated and capitalised for the purposes of a claim.
There’s also the possibility of a claim for nervous shock: if a loved one actually witnesses the accident that gives rise to the fatality or other serious injury, they will be entitled to recover compensation for the psychological injuries that they suffered as a consequence. However, in order for a claim for nervous shock to arise, the claimant will have to have been physically present and a direct witness to the incident that caused the injury.
A feature of fatal injury claims is that they are brought by one nominated party on behalf of all of the parties entitled to bring a claim. There is no hierarchy or order of priority in terms of which party is entitled to commence a claim and therefore the first person entitled to initiate a claim will in effect do so on behalf of all. Ideally this might be done by agreement between all parties entitled to bring a claim but there is no need for it to be agreed and any party entitled may proceed unilaterally. However, all fatal injury cases must be ruled by a court before they can be concluded and therefore, no matter who brings the claim, the court will oversee the claim and ensure that any compensation arising from the death is distributed appropriately between all parties entitled to claim in accordance with law.
About McCarthy + Co
With more than 30 years of experience in dealing with personal injury claims *, McCarthy + Co. has expertise in a wide variety of fields including workplace and road traffic accidents. We are a family-run business, who pride ourselves on offering honest, impartial and helpful advice.
Our offices are based in Dublin and Cork but we have worked with clients throughout Ireland in locations ranging from Galway to Waterford. You can count on us for legal advice, guidance and assistance on any form of personal injury *.
Get in contact with our personal injury solicitors today to make a start on your claim * or gather more information. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.