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Understanding The Fatal Accident Act and Dependency Claims

Published on 5 July 2019 | Modified on 5 July 2019

Written by Stacey Bennett

What is The Fatal Accidents Act?

The Fatal Accidents Act relates to a dependency claim in the UK following a death from an accident. Only the wife, husband or civil partner of the deceased can submit a dependency claim.  Currently, the statutory bereavement award is £12,980.00. The Act does also provide for where the deceased is a minor.

However, the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 needs updating in relation to bereavement compensation. The Act prevents an individual who had been cohabiting with the deceased to claim this statutory award.

For example, a situation could arise where an individual had been living as a common-law husband or wife for a number of years. By not entering a marriage or civil partnership you are unable to submit a dependency claim.

The Ministry of Justice has proposed changes to this part of the Act.  This would allow cohabiting couples that can show they have lived in the same household as the deceased to submit a claim. It would need to show they lived together immediately before the date of death for at least two years before that date as common-law husband, wife or civil partner.

The Act is out of date and requires amending.  Projections show that by the end of 2019, the amendment will be updated.

What about Child Dependants?

Another issue arising out of Fatal Accident Act claims relates to children of the deceased. In this instance, the children may have a claim for dependency or a claim of loss.

Normally speaking, evidence is needed to prove the potential value of a claim.  This becomes more difficult when looking into the future. Courts are required to predict the future, how the deceased may have responded to events, and provided financially in those circumstances.

In cases of this nature, the defendants are able to raise arguments over the likelihood of certain future events taking place and the deceased’s financial involvement. Sometimes this can lead to incredibly difficult and insensitive situations for the family to experience.

A Fatal Accidents Act Case Study

The Fatal Accidents Act case of AB v KL (2019) achieved a welcome judgment.

The facts of the dependency claim relate to where the deceased was a father of three sons from two separate marriages. The deceased had his eldest son with his first wife in 1992 and the two youngest twin boys with his second wife in 2003. None of the children lived with their father at the date of his death, however, they did receive a degree of financial support from him.

The judgment confirmed that the ‘balance of probabilities test’ is not the correct test when looking at future claims. If uncertainties around an event are that prospects of them occurring can be regarded as ‘fanciful’, no compensation should be awarded.  If they are not fanciful, compensation may be awarded. The compensation must be an amount that reflects the likelihood of their occurrence. A percentage reduction is applied to reflect the hypothetical nature of the claim.

With this test in mind, the sons were able to claim regular maintenance contributions. These included; university expenses, driving tuition, birthday parties (up to a certain age), financial contributions to clothing (up to a certain age), presents to age 30, contributions to school trips, holidays, contributions to first homes and weddings.

The judgment also allowed for future parenting services for the younger twins. The judgment included help with school work and emotional support, along with property maintenance in the future.

Wherever there is ambiguity in the evidence, the defendant will always look to exploit this and therefore future claims are notoriously more complicated to prove. However, this judgment will greatly assist claimants looking to claim future dependency compensation and in particular those hypothetical life events which may or may not take place.

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