Fatal Accidents Act 1976
It may be hard to comprehend but it was not until 1846 that the law recognised that close family members could make a claim if a loved one had died due to the negligence of another person.
That the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, is law passed by the Government that is outdated and unfair to the bereaved families and to the Deceased.
It is hard to comprehend that the value of life in England and Wales can be worth absolutely £NOTHING if killed in a road accident or at work.
It’s time the law is changed to stop the injustice. Please sign our Government online E-Petition to change the law for Bereavement awards and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 to help innocent victims.
Fatal Accidents Act 1976 & Bereavement Award
The Fatal Accidents Act 1846 was passed and over a period of time there are now two main statutes that govern fatal accident claims.
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, compensation claim is for the benefit of the dependents of the deceased and those who are entitled to a bereavement award. Those limited amount of family members that can claim has been extended to include a Civil Partnership of the deceased. Further the definition of a “wife or husband” has been expanded to include any person (not being a child of the deceased) if that child was treated by the deceased as a child of the family.
What can be claimed under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976?
There are 3 main heads of claim.
• Bereavement award currently only £15,120
• Dependency claims paid to close family members.
• Funeral expenses if paid by the dependants.
The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934
Here the law is for the benefit of the Deceased’s estate. That is, what the deceased could have claimed had he or she had not unfortunately died.
Did the Deceased Leave A Will?
The deceased’s “estate” is the value of what the Deceased owned at the time of death including taking into account any debts. As fatal accident solicitors we are often asked who can represent the estate of the deceased? Usually this is the same person(s) under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. The first thing fatal accident solicitors will ask is whether the deceased left a will, if so, then the person(s) named in the Will have authority to look after the affairs of the deceased, that person(s) is/are called the “Executor” (if male) or “Executrix” (if female). Once this has been established, the fatal accident claim solicitors will then apply to the local Probate Court with the necessary documents including the Will to confirm officially that the person(s) named in the Will have authority to instruct the fatal accident solicitors to pursue the fatal compensation claim.
Deceased Left No Will – Died Intestate
If there is no Will, the deceased is said to have died “intestate” which means there is a strict line of close family members who have authority to claim. Thus, in most cases, if the husband is killed, then the wife will be next entitled; if there is no wife then the children will be next entitled and so on. Once it is established who is entitled to claim on behalf of the deceased, the documents will be lodged at the Probate Court so that the necessary legal documents can be obtained to authorise instruction of the fatal claim solicitors to pursue the action. This person is called the administrator.
It must be remembered that an executor or executrix named in a will has authority to instruct a fatal accident lawyer immediately upon the death of the deceased. However without a Will, the person entitled is called the administrator and has no authority to sue until a grant of administration by the court has been obtained.
What can be claimed under the 1934 Act?
• Compensation for pain, suffering and loss: suffered by the Deceased before death. Thus if the death was instantaneous, surprisingly there is no compensation payable. An insult to bereaved families to think that such a fatal blow to the deceased to kill him or her instantly deserved no compensation at all is frankly a joke in our respectful view. Likewise, if prior to death the deceased was in a “coma” there may be no compensation as the deceased did not experience any “pain or suffering”. Difficult to take in but that is the law for now.
“An insult to bereaved families to think that such a fatal blow to the deceased to kill him or her instantly deserved no compensation at all is frankly a unjust, in our respectful view.”
It is Cheap to Kill
Unfortunately as alluded to above, the Fatal Accident Act 1976 and the 1934 Act (which is law made by the Government not Judges) does not provide for any compensation for the unlawful taking of a life. Thus the life of a child, husband, wife, brother, sister, partner, grandad, ‘nanny’ in England and Wales is ‘worthless.’
How can that be? The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is:
But if it can be established that before death a loved one suffered from pain and mental anguish, the Courts may award some pitiful compensation for the suffering. Here, the fatal accident claim solicitor will have to discuss with the bereaved family if they want to claim compensation, that a medical expert will be needed to review the hospital records of their loved one to prove the hurt and pain. The greater the suffering the greater compensation. But this is not a discussion by the solicitor and bereaved family that can be taken lightly, it is a very sensitive area.
If child loses a parent(s), no bereavement award is paid, it is not right, not just and cruel
In a Coroner’s Court where experts may be called to confirm the cause of death, the Coroner may leave out the amount of pain and suffering the deceased endured before death so as not to unnecessarily distress the surviving family members. But the family has a right to know if they wish to to make an enqury. Once again to make a claim for compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 the family have to be forced to hear how their loved one suffered before death. An unnecessary torture for the bereaved family.
Below are some examples of ‘pre-death‘ pain and suffering where fatal accident compensation has been awarded or not as the case may be.
Crushed to Death – Court Valuation £NOTHING
In a disappointing case to say the least, a Hillsborough disaster case called Hicks v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police 1992, the trial judge was of the view that because, according to experts, being crushed to death only took a matter of seconds (lost of consciousness followed by dying shortly afterwards) there was no evidence of injury prior to the fatal crushing injury and no pre-death pain and suffering. As a result no award of fatal injury compensation. Indeed, the barrister representing the parents of Sarah and Victoria Hicks had the Claimant’s evidence rejected by the Court. The Judge referred to the barrister’s submission before in the lower court in these terms:
‘…There was a gradual build up of pressure on the bodies of the two girls causing increasing breathlessness, discomfort and pain from which they suffered for some 20 minutes before the final crushing injury which produced unconsciousness. This should have led, he submitted, to the conclusion that they sustained injuries which caused considerable pain and suffering while they were still conscious and which should attract a substantial award of damages…’
The Highest Court in England and Wales rejected that there could have been this build up of pressure causing increased breathlessness over a period of time. The Judge decided to award nothing.
This is what one top judge said about why no compensation is payable:
Lord Templeman whilst appreciating that the being crushed to death was no doubt terrifying for those that died on that fateful day was persuaded not to order payment of any compensation:
‘…fear of impending death felt by the victim of a fatal injury before that injury is inflicted cannot by itself give rise to a cause of act…’
In layman’s terms, under the 1934 Act and the Fatal Accidents Actc 1976, the fear of impending death and death itself does not give rise to any compensation for the loss of life. The Goverment makes the law and as such there is no power by the Courts in England and Wales make an award. If death is instantaneous or almost instantaneous as in the tragic fatal crushings at Hillsborough, no compensation is payable (that is even if liability or blame could have been established).
In order for there to by any compensation ‘fear alone’ is not enough. The victim has to experience pain and suffering before death. For the bereaved families who will have to hear this evidence, to be worthwhile to claim compensation it probably has to me more than a few days and weeks. This is because the Court’s valuation for the fatal injury (which is unjust in any event) will be further reduced by solicitors costs and court fees. Both the Courts and the Government have ruled recently that such costs must now be deducted from bereaved families and not paid by the insurance company. Where is the Justice? Look at more examples below where compensation for pre-death pain and suffering is not worth much, in our respectful view.
A Parent(s) will receive a bereavement award if a child is unlawfully killed if under 18 years but £NOTHING if the child is over 18 years. Why? It is unjust, does not make any sense. The law needs to be changed. Do it now and sign our Bereavement E-Petition
£3,500 Late Diagnosis of Cancer
Where there is pre-death pain and suffering, the compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is an insult. Thus in the case of Kadir v Mistry a case decided in 2014 the NHS failed to spot early stomach cancer in a young woman with four young children. Regrettably she died a few months after diagnosis. Her solicitors in this medical negligence case had to obtain evidence of her ‘mental anguish‘ and torment about how she felt about discovering the misdiagnosis. The award of compensation? A misley £3,500.
Due to cut backs by the Conservative Gonverment in April 2013, today, the bereaved family may lose 25% of the compensation to the fatal injury solicitors. In addition, in a recent case called Mosson v Spousal 2015, the costs of obtaining “Probate” that is the legal work to proved that the family member(s) has authority to act on behalf of the Deceased to claim compensation, will have to further pay out of any award of compensation for the deceased (remember the pain and unimaginable mental anguish before death) the costs of the court fees and probate document. Therefore, the fatal accident solicitor will have to think carefully with the family to decide whether it is worth putting the family though all of this anguish for the paltry sums on offer for the fatal injury compensation by the Courts in England and Wales.
£8,500 Fatal Accident Compensation – 12 Months Suffering
Another insulting example to bereaved families following the loss a loved one following an unlawful killing due to a fatal accident or criminal activity. In the case of Brown v Hamid, decided by the Courts in 2013, where a medical specialist failed to diagnose ‘pulmonary hypertension’ correctly which resulted in the deceased dying 12 months quicker. Life curtained by 12 months worth £8,500. Again take out fatal injury solicitors costs and probate court fees you are not left with much at all.
- Losses/expenses as a result of the death payable to the estate. This will include cost of care, medical expenses, aid & appliances used to help care for the deceased between the fatal accident and death.
- Funeral expenses (if paid by the Deceased’s estate)
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976
Therefore the main difference between the Fatal Accidents At 1976 and the 1934 Act is the former applies for the benefit of the close family members ‘dependants’ that does not form part of the deceased estate. Thus under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, only the dependents can claim for the bereavement award and dependency. But under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 Act and the 1934 Act, both have provision to recover funeral expenses. If there is a duplication of recoverability, only one claim can be made however.
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 has been described as an ‘oddity’ and the fatal injury solicitor refer to a quote below that has been recently reported in the case of Mosson v Spousal at paragraph 76 of the Judgement.
Fatal Accidents Act 1976, a claim may be made by a limited number of relatives for their bereavement suffered due to the death. The award is described in this way in the third edition of Personal Injury Schedules edited by William Latimer-Sayer and Langstaff J:
“A bereavement award is an oddity in the law of damages. The fundamental principle in personal injury claims is that the claimant should be compensated for his or her loss. Therefore a claimant needs to prove the loss, and an attempt to quantify it must be made. However, bereavement awards are subject to no such condition. Once the relative has proved he or she was within the specified class of claimant and that the defendant is liable, then an award is made. There is no need to prove any actual loss suffered by the relatives; the Court assumes certain people will inevitably be adversely affected by the death of a close relative. There is no right to seek to argue for any additional or higher sum in the event of extreme suffering. This may seem an arbitrary approach awarding damages, but the alternative has long been considered to be against public policy…”
Please contact us if you have any questions either if you are a dependant, close family member or even a friend who is worried about the bereaved family and want to help. We will always be here to help you under our No Win, No Fee, Solicitorr Service.