The Fatal Accident Act 1976 (Dependency Claim)
A dependency claim provides an independent cause of action for near relatives of the deceased who have been deprived of his or her support and services. It is a claim for damages not for the deceased themselves, but for their family after death.
As one judge put it:
“It is not a claim which the deceased could have pursued in his own lifetime because it is for damages suffered not by himself, but by his family after death.”
To be awarded dependency claim compensation following a fatal accident, the dependents would have to show that had the deceased survived from their injuries, they would have been able to recover compensation in his or her own right. If the claim would have inevitably failed due to limitation problems, then no claim can be found. Any damages awarded is subject to reduction for contributory negligence. If the death of the deceased was caused by the negligence of one of his dependents, that negligence does not affect the claims of the other dependents, Dodds v Dodds  QB 543.
Only the wife or husband of the deceased, and, where the deceased was a minor (under the age of 18 years) who was never married, for the benefit of his parents, if he was legitimate and of his mother if he was illegitimate. The bereavement award has increased from £3,500 to £7,500 after 1 April 1991 and from 1 April 2002 £10,000. Interest can also be claimed in respect of a fatal accident case on the award running from the date of death.
The Three Stage Test of a Fatal Accident Award
Assessment of a fatal accident award can be very complicated which is why you should always instruct a specialist fatal accident solicitor.
The assessment, simply put, is a 3 stage test:
- 1. Establish the earning of the deceased, less living expenses – this gives what the court’s the annual dependence or what is called the “multiplicand”;
- 2. The multiplicand is then multiplied by the number of years purchase, the “multiplier”;
- 3. The resultant figure is then subject to the element of reasonable future probability which is reflected in the multiplier in 2 above.