Wrongful Death Compensation in the UK

Wrongful Death Compensation in UK

We are specialist solicitors in wrongful death compensation in the UK. Find out more about making a wrongful death claim and the awards available.

Wrongful Death Explained

A ‘wrongful death’ is a fatal accident caused by another person’s negligence or illegal actions. Examples of wrongful death typically include situations like road traffic accidents, preventable accidents at work, industrial diseases, and medical negligence. A wrongful death claim can be made on behalf of the deceased’s family and/or dependents, usually their spouse, children, parents or siblings. Wrongful death compensation will be awarded if the accused is found liable based on the ‘balance of probabilities’.

As specialist wrongful death solicitors, we can help you claim various bereavement damages and awards. Please get in touch with us for further information.

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Wrongful Death ProcessWho Pays?The Law CommissionSupporting EvidenceTime Limits

Workplace ExamplesRTA ExamplesMedical Negligence ExamplesExtreme Activity Examples

Travel ExamplesSubstance-Induced Examples

The Process of Claiming for Wrongful Death

If you want to claim wrongful death, the first part of the process is to look into hiring a specialist solicitor. Solicitors are there to offer advice and handle the entire procedure without fault so that you don’t have to, allowing you to grieve in peace. Before appointing a firm, you should conduct thorough research and carefully examine the options available to you. You will want to find a firm that will listen to you, work on a no-win, no-fee basis, provide competent advice, and have experience with successful wrongful death claims. When you reach out to a solicitor, they should be able to offer free, no-obligation advice and clearly explain the potential options based on your specific circumstances.

After the initial consultation stage and considering your options, you can hire a firm to act on your behalf. When you appoint a firm, they will start processing your wrongful death claim immediately. The wrongful death solicitors will gather all the information and evidence required to build a strong case. The vast majority of cases are settled out of court. In this scenario, the other party has accepted liability, and a settlement agreement has been reached. Should the other party continue to deny liability or an agreement is not acquired on compensation, the case will go to court, where a judge will decide.

Who Pays for a Wrongful Death Claim?

In most wrongful death claims, an insurance company will usually be responsible for paying the damages awarded. For example, if someone has died in a car accident due to the actions of another motorist, the other driver’s car insurance company will cover the compensation costs. Likewise, if an employee has died due to a workplace accident, the business will be covered by their liability insurance. If a tenant has died in their rented property, the landlord’s liability insurance will pay the compensation damages. These are just a few examples of insurance policies that can cover a wrongful death payout.

There are some situations where an insurance company may not cover the compensation payout, such as if the defendant was uninsured or if their policy’s limit is lower than the awarded amount. In these scenarios, the defendant may be responsible for paying some or all of the damages.

As insurance companies mainly pay the costs of a wrongful death compensation claim, claimants are more likely to receive a larger sum and have a greater chance of receiving the payout than if the person responsible was liable to pay. It also means you don’t have to morally worry about the compounding effects your claim could have on the company, employees, hospital, etc.

The specifics of who pays out can vary from one case to another, so it’s recommended that you consult a solicitor for advice tailored to your unique circumstances.

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The Law Commission

The Law Commission recommended that a bereavement award should be extended to:

  • Parent and child,
  • Same-sex partners (this has now been made law),
  • Wrongful death awards will be paid at £10k for a spouse and £5k for all other family members to a maximum of £50,000.

But even here, compensation for wrongful death in the form of the bereavement award is still too low. The Law Commission reconcile that there is a misconception of the purpose of bereavement awards, that his people think it is the value of what society places on life. That is not the purpose. If not, then what is the purpose of it? The law is and should be justice. There is no justice, and bereaved families across England and Wales are sadly being forced into financial difficulty and unnecessary stress when they need help at most in life.

What Evidence Do You Need to Claim for Wrongful Death?

To make a successful claim for wrongful death, you must show evidence that your loved one died due to another person’s negligence or intentional act. To maximise the compensation you will receive, it’s also essential that the supporting evidence not only proves 100% liability but also the impact of the accident on you.

Evidence that can build a strong wrongful death claim may include:

  • Medical Records: These records will outline the injuries the deceased endured, treatment and associated costs, the cause of their death etc.
  • Witness Statements: People who witnessed the accident are instrumental in determining what happened during the incident and who was liable, particularly if the other party denies whole or partial responsibility.
  • Police Reports: If the accident was reported to police, their reports can be used as evidence of the accident.
  • Photographs and Videos: This type of media helps present visual evidence of the accident scene, injuries sustained and other relevant aspects.
  • Expert Testimony: Your solicitors should seek independent opinions from experts, such as medical professionals, to provide a unique insight to sway a verdict in your favour.
  • Financial Documents: When claiming compensation, you must show evidence of how it has affected you in the form of financial loss.

What Are the Time Limits to Claim?

As with any accident claim, you will usually need to submit your wrongful death claim within a certain period for it to be valid and successful. The statute of limitations states that legal proceedings within a civil law claim can not occur after a maximum time limit has been reached. In England and Wales, this is covered under the Limitation Act 1980.

For wrongful death claims, you must submit the claim within three years of the deceased’s date. Some situations can complicate the statute of limitations, such as if the cause of death is not known immediately. There may also be scenarios where a court can extend the three years if they have valid reasons to do so, depending on the case’s unique circumstances. We recommend you contact our solicitors to get started on your claim as soon as possible and for tailored advice on deadlines for your claim.

Examples of Wrongful Death Compensation

Wrongful death is defined as a legal claim that can be pursued following a person’s death due to someone else’s wrongful actions. Many cases are brought up due to negligence, such as dangerous driving or medical malpractice. Murder with intent can also lead to a claim, but as wrongful death is a civil claim, the burden of proof differs from criminal proceedings. In the UK, the burden of proof is based on the balance of probabilities.

To help you learn more about what constitutes wrongful death and how much compensation can be awarded, this section will look at some real-life examples reported by news outlets.

Workplace Wrongful Deaths

The workplace is one of the everyday situations where a wrongful death can occur. Accidents are often caused by slips and trips, manual labour, machinery, repetitive movements, and vehicles, to name just a few. Specific sectors, such as construction and agriculture, are more dangerous and seriously threaten life. Employers and their staff should go above and beyond to keep themselves and others safe, especially when working on hazardous tasks.

Engineer Crushed to Death

Colin Willoughby, aged 52, sadly died in May 2018 while working. The engineer was working for Graham Engineering Ltd when a 1,000-tonne hydraulic press crushed him after the piston came loose. Mr Willoughby tragically died instantly. The press was previously inspected and concluded to be in poor condition. While it was described as having an unusual shape and being extremely heavy, no individual risk assessment was carried out. A formal risk assessment was also not carried out before its use in May 2018. The press was lifted twice using two fork-lift trucks despite its weight exceeding the safe working load limits.

Due to several hazards, Graham Engineering Ltd was guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. A judge ordered the firm to pay £645,487.82, including compensation for wrongful death.

Road Accident Deaths

Driving has become necessary, helping us quickly get where we need to be. However, being a motorist requires significant responsibility, thorough training and a strict process before someone can get their license. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people from driving dangerously or carelessly. Road traffic accidents are one of the most common areas where wrongful death can occur, leaving a path of devastation for all involved.

Mum Awarded £230,000 after Son Dies in Crash

In quite an unusual case, a mother was awarded £230,000 in wrongful death compensation in 2014 after being declared a ‘secondary victim’. Sally Young was travelling to the gym to meet her 26-year-old son David, but tragically, she discovered a badly damaged car during the journey. While in the gym, she was informed that her son had been involved and had lost his life. The guilty driver, Arthur MacVean, was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment for causing death by dangerous driving as a result of speeding and losing control of his vehicle. The mother had previously lost her husband in a helicopter crash and had a close relationship with her son.

The judge ruled that Mrs Young was a secondary victim and, therefore, eligible for enhanced compensation. The payout awarded was based on loss of society (£80,000), personal services (£30,000), pain and suffering (£35,000), loss of earnings and services (£80,000), and the cost of psychological treatment (£6,250).

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Medical Negligence Deaths

The death of a family member due to medical negligence can be a challenging circumstance to come to terms with. Medical professionals are there to look after us and help us overcome health issues, so it’s a massive betrayal of trust when someone dies under their care. Medical negligence, aka medical malpractice, is defined as a medical professional that behaves in a way that deviates from the care standards of their profession. Examples include misdiagnosis, wrong procedures, post-operative infections, and mis-prescribing medication. Medical negligence can cause life-changing injuries and death. It’s important to claim compensation for a wrongful death caused by medical negligence to ease the financial burden and ensure the professional is held responsible and doesn’t make the same mistake again.

NHS Trust Fined £2.5 Million Over Two Deaths

An NHS trust has been fined following the tragic death of two patients. Natalie Billingham, aged 33, died from multiple organ failures in March 2018 caused by an infection. In the same month, Kaysie-Jane Robinson, aged 14, also died from an infection. It was ruled that both died from sepsis after being ‘exposed to a significant risk of avoidable harm’ while under the care of Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.

The Care Quality Commission prosecuted the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust for breaching the 2008 Health and Social Care Act, noting that the hospital failed to address known safety failings raised in previous months. A judge fined the trust £2,533,332 and ordered it to pay £38,000 prosecution fees.

Wrongful Death Claims From Extreme Activities

Extreme activities and sports can be an enriching experience, helping people venture out of their comfort zones and guaranteeing an adrenaline rush. These thrilling and adventurous activities can include anything from bungee jumping and skydiving to river rafting, sea diving and mountain climbing, to name just a few. Experiences like these wouldn’t be as exciting if they didn’t come with risks. Accidents can occasionally happen through negligence and recklessness. Extreme activities require adequate training, functioning safety equipment, professional behaviour, and proper guidance.

9 Year Old Wins £290,000 for Dad’s Death

In 2012, Lex Warner sadly died after diving off Cape Wrath in Scotland. Hours before performing a technical dive, he suffered an abdominal injury in a fall while wearing heavy equipment and fins. While in the water, Mr Warner encountered issues due to his injuries, and he became unresponsive before being lifted to the surface.

After a lengthy legal battle, Mr Warner’s nine-year-old son has been awarded £290,000 in compensation for wrongful death. The judge ruled at Edinburgh’s Court of Session that the boat’s captain failed to take enough action to minimise risks. In particular, the judge acknowledged that the captain failed to recognise that arrangements “permitted or even encouraged” divers to walk on the deck while wearing fins. This “risky activity” is believed to have led to Mr Warner’s death when he began to struggle during the dive.

Travel Wrongful Deaths

Whether going on holiday or attending to business needs, travelling the world combines nearly every possible emotion, from excitement and curiosity to stress and nervousness. While we don’t think about it at the time, travel can be dangerous. Transport options like aeroplanes and boats can lead to serious accidents and injuries when things go awry. Common causes of these accidents include human error, bad weather, equipment failure, and crew oversight. Here are some accidents that have occurred to travellers, leading to a wrongful death claim.

Families Receive $48 Million in Damages

A high-profile place accident occurred in July 2006 when a skydiving aircraft crashed seconds after taking off from Sullivan Region Airport in Missouri, US. The accident, sadly, claimed six lives, including the pilot and a young woman from London. The families sought legal advice and blamed the crash on a defective engine part. Doncasters, a leading producer of alloy parts, manufactured the plane’s defective component.

After a three-week trial, a jury found Doncasters guilty of using a different alloy than called for by the engine’s manufacturer. The victim’s families were awarded $28 million in punitive damages and $20 million in compensatory damages. According to local reports, Doncasters successfully appealed the punitive damages. However, the damages were eventually restored, agreeing with the jury’s initial decision.

Substance-Induced Wrongful Deaths

Substances can harm a person’s health, whether inhaled, ingested or touched. Examples of dangerous substances include asbestos, acids, solvents, dust, fumes, chemicals, pesticides, and disinfectants, to name just a few. Employees who work with these substances are more likely to suffer an accident and endure health problems. The effects of encountering dangerous materials include headaches, skin rashes, burns, lung and kidney diseases, and nausea. Below are some examples of wrongful deaths due to hazardous substances.

BBC Pays £1.64M to Families of Asbestos Deceased

Asbestos is one of the best examples of substance-induced deaths, as many workers encounter asbestos materials during their day-to-day jobs. When asbestos materials are broken, they can be extremely dangerous to inhale, causing diseases that may take several years to develop symptoms. The risk is more common for people working in construction and maintenance. One of the recent high-profile cases of asbestos compensation involves the BBC. Eleven workers died after developing mesothelioma following asbestos exposure, from make-up artists to set builders and producers.

Exposure is understood to have happened at various BBC sites between 1959 and 1998, but it wasn’t until a freedom of information request in 2022 that the details became public knowledge. The BBC paid £1.64m in wrongful death compensation to the families of the deceased.

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