Loss of Dependency Calcluation

Understanding Dependency Claims in Fatal Accident Cases in England and Wales

Losing a loved one is an unimaginable pain, and when it happens due to someone else’s negligence, it adds legal complexities to the emotional distress. In England and Wales, loss of dependency claims in fatal accident cases aim to provide financial support to dependents left behind.  The compensation for the death itself of a loved one, is quite nominal compared to the claim for loss dependency that is usually claimed from close family members.

People Grieving Following a Loss dependency

When a person dies due to another’s negligence, many cases involved claims involving a fatal accident at work or causing death by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving, dependents (like spouses, children, or parents) can make a dependency claim. This claim seeks compensation for the financial support the deceased would have provided and also the ‘labour costs’ that can sound in damages (compensation) for the hours that the deceased has provided a service to the family member, for instance the deceased regularly cleaned the house, attended to DIY, washed the car, mowed the garden.  Those ‘labour costs’ or services provided by the deceased needs to be replaced.

Dependency Claim


That replacement may be by the family member where that person has to provide the time to undertake those chores either personally and or by paying somebody to undertake that service.  Roughly a claim for the labour costs of a dependency service will usually amount to the minimum wage rates.  Over a year that can add up to £Thousands and in young families often cases for labour costs, the services provided by the Deceased can lead to compensation for a fatal accident claim to over a £Million.

Case Law On Calculating a Fatal Accident Dependency Claim

The cornerstone of dependency claims is the “Empress Motors Case.” This landmark legal case established crucial principles for assessing dependency claims. In the Empress Case, the court recognised that dependency goes beyond direct financial contributions. It considered factors like services, care, and assistance, acknowledging the multifaceted nature of dependence. This precedent laid the foundation for a comprehensive approach to evaluating the impact of a loss on dependents.

In layperson’s terms, the Empress Case emphasised that financial dependency isn’t solely about monetary contributions. It recognised the value of the deceased’s non-financial contributions, such as childcare, household support, or assistance. This broader perspective ensures that dependents are rightfully compensated for the full extent of their loss.

How is a Dependency Claim Calculated?

This can be complicated.  If there are bank statements that provide full and accurate payments by the Deceased concerning various income and contributions paid then this may be sufficient to assess the dependency with certainty.  But often life is not like this and there may be many instances where such information is wanting and incomplete. Also the investigations may become tedious and difficult so the Court in Empress Motors undertook and established a broad brush approach to calculating a financial dependency award.

In the Empress Motors case, a person claimed compensation for the loss of someone due to negligence. There were differing assessments by the courts when calculating the lost years since the two leading authorities, but guidance was provided by the CA in a combined judgement in Harris v Empress Motors Ltd and Cole v Crown Poultry Packers Ltd [1984] 1 WLR 212.

The general principle is in 3 stages;

1. Assess the living expenses of the deceased, (the ingredients of the expenses are the same if the victim is old, young, single or married);

2. The sum to be deducted as living expenses is the proportion of the victim’s net earnings that he spends to maintain himself at the standard of life appropriate to his case;

3. Any sums expended to maintain or benefit others do not form part of the victim’s living expenses and are not to be deducted from the net earnings.

The court in this case decided that for two cohabiting married parents who lived together with one child or more, the dependency percentage is 75%, or with no children, 66%.

In the case of Coward v Comex Houlder Diving Limited, the widow, Mrs. Coward, contested the damages awarded under the Fatal Accident Acts. The court, dismissing the appeal, determined the dependency should be calculated at 60% of the deceased’s net earnings instead of the conventional two-thirds. The judge’s reasoning considered future chances and refused to apply the standard formula without adjustment, deeming it unjust. The decision allowed for discretion to admit fresh evidence. This differs from the Empress Motors case, which established conventional figures for dependency ratios.

Chouza v Martins & Ors [22.06.21] the High Court considered an alternative to both Harris and Coward.  In this case Counsel for the Claimant argued argued that the usual way of calculating the support percentage should change because the deceased was frugal, spending very little on themselves. Normally, the court follows set percentages, but here, they wanted higher percentages pre and post-retirement. The defendant solicitors said any change of the usual ratio of dependency needs proof. The judge, Mr. Justice Spencer, explained there are two parts: deciding how to calculate, and then, if using percentages, figuring out the right ones. He believed a change was fair based on family stories, even without specific proof. So, he decided on 85% before retirement and 70% after, differing from the usual percentages set by Harris.

How to make a Dependency Claim

When pursuing a dependency claim, factors considered include:

  1. Financial Support: This includes the deceased’s income, pension, and other monetary contributions.
  2. Services and Assistance: Non-financial contributions like childcare, household tasks, and emotional support are evaluated.
  3. Loss of Benefits: Dependents may lose access to certain benefits or perks due to the death.

It’s essential to prove the extent of dependency, and specialist fatal accident solicitors, R James Hutcheon Solicitors will play a crucial role in gathering evidence and presenting a compelling case.

Navigating these legal intricacies can be overwhelming during an emotionally challenging time. Seeking legal counsel from experts experienced in fatal accident claims is advisable. We can guide dependents through the process, ensuring a comprehensive assessment of the impact on their lives.

In conclusion, dependency claims in fatal accident cases aim to address the multifaceted nature of loss. The Empress Case stands as a legal milestone, recognising the diverse contributions and dependencies that exist within families. By acknowledging both financial and non-financial aspects, the legal system strives to provide just compensation to those left behind after a tragic loss.

Contact the fatal accident solicitors today for help and support free with the knowledge that we offer a complete NO WIN NO FEE NO WORRY SERVICE.

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Posted: November 29, 2023 at 12:35 pm