The death of a loved one, tragically, in an accident is a shocking and traumatic experience. The grief and loss can never be compensated in monetary terms. However, the practical financial implications to a family, of a sudden and tragic death, all too quickly become apparent and survivors should be aware of the compensation which may be obtained to ease the burden.
I will summarise briefly the main aspects to such claim:-
Nature of claim
Compensation can be claimed by the relatives of a deceased who has died as a result of the wrongful act of another, for instance, a road traffic accident or an accident at work.
Time limits for claim
A claim for compensation arising from the death in such circumstances must be brought within two years of the date of death of the deceased. In very limited circumstances this time limit may be extended. Legal advice is essential.
Who can claim?
Under the Civil Liability Act of 1961 (as amended) the dependents of the deceased person may claim but only one claim can be brought, on behalf of all “statutory dependents” of the deceased.
A statutory dependent is defined as a spouse, parent, grandparent, step-parent, child, grandchild, step-child, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, of the deceased and certain divorced persons. Since 1996, a “dependent” now includes a person who was not married to the deceased but who, until the date of the deceased’s death, had been living with the deceased as husband or wife for a continuous period of not less than three years.
What compensation can be claimed?
- Compensation for mental distress on the loss of the deceased. This is capped by Government legislation at €35,000 at present since the 11th January 2014.
- Funeral and associated expenses such as the cost of grave, cremation, headstones and so forth arising from the death.
- The financial loss to the dependents resulting from the death. This is usually the most significant aspect of the claim. An assessment is made of the financial contribution the deceased made to the dependents in his lifetime and the future loss to those dependents is worked out with the help of an actuary and can be quite substantial. Careful attention is necessary to the preparation and submission of this claim.
How is claim made?
Initially a compensation claim is lodged with the Injuries Board which will assess the claim. The assessment may be accepted or rejected by the dependents or the Insurance Company involved. If accepted, the assessment and division of the compensation among the dependents must be approved by the Court. If the assessment is rejected, the Injuries Board will issue an “Authorisation” and the dependents may then take formal Court proceedings. Any settlement must again be approved by the Court. Legal advice is essential at all stages of this process as there are costs implications involved.
Nervous shock claims
A tragic death may, in certain circumstances, give rise to a separate form of claim for compensation for nervous shock where a survivor has suffered nervous shock from the wrongful death of another, inducing a “recognisable psychiatric illness”. This is a very technical and complex area of law and legal advice should be sought.