Children’s Dependency on Parents
Naturally one would expect, that if a child lost his or her parent, there would be a “financial” loss to the child for upkeep and generally looking after the child (setting aside the emotional needs). A surviving parent would take over the roll but would lose the support of the deceased spouse and as such the fatal accident solicitors would look to help the family by seeking monetary compensation for the loss of financial income and support the deceased spouse had contributed to the family.
Under a Fatal Accident Act the death of their parent(s) following a fatal accident will usually be assessed with the surviving parent’s claim but there can be occasions where separate assessments of the child’s claim is desirable. The Court may or may not take into account what happens to the family arrangements after the death of a parent.
The courts have the difficulty in valuing the cost of the mother’s services:-
- In one case following the death of the father, it was found that the family were not financially worse off but the Judge found on the evidence that a money award was fair as the family would miss out on the potential of the late father earning more income for his family.
- Thus were a single mother was killed following a fatal road accident leaving 3 children and subsequently looked after by her sister who gave up work to look after them, the value of the sister’s loss was only the starting point. The court would look at the deceased mother’s earnings and the financial loss which mathematically was easy to compute. It was more difficult to put a value on a mother’s care and services to the children however. The mother worked full-time and thus whilst the sister had only earned what was said to be “modest earnings” the court considered a discount of 15% of the sister’s earning potential.
The Court is not barred from considering the prospects of re-marriage of the surviving parent and thus any dependency claim on behalf of the children. This could reduce any award for dependency.
- Can the loss of a mother’s services simply be valued at a commercial carer’s rate? In one famous case the answer is “no” especially when the child was young at the time of death. As the child becomes older, the Court took the view that less time and devotion would be required by the mother. The court summed up the situation as follows:
‘… as children get older they may also get more independent of their parents and less in need of being looked after. In the early years the services rendered by a mother
to her small child may be valued by the cost of a hired nanny. The requirements are to some degree comparable. As the child grows older, and reaches school age, the valuation by commercial standards becomes less and less appropriate, and to use them is again not comparing like with like. Once the child has begun school, at least by the age of six, the extent of the services decreases in amount. She needs, for a time, to be taken to and from school. Later on, she may go there by herself. Not only is the yardstick of a nanny’s wage less appropriate, but the services rendered by the mother change in nature.’
Croom Johnson LJ Spittle v Bunney
Compenstion for death of family member
You have read above the harsh and unjust nature of how the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 applies to the unlawful death of children in accidents in England and Wales. The harshness continues when it comes to other family members.
The law is outdated and in need of urgent reform. The law at the time it was passed was on the classical family unit of Husband and Wife, with 2 children; husband goes to work and wife looks after the children and household, and husband is involved in a fatal accident. The wife and children will be compensation for their dependency upon the ‘bread winner.’ However if a typical family unit such as that illustrated is not involved, the Fatal Accident Act 1976 and case law that follows often makes compensation for a death of a family member for dependency more complicated, difficult and less compensation.
For more information on compensation for the death of a family member (called dependency claims) see are article by clicking on the link below.
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Posted: November 13, 2013 at 3:52 pm