Dependants of a deceased person who has died as a result of the wrongful act of another person or institution may issue a fatal injury claim against the wrongdoer*.
Part IV of the Civil Liability Act 1961 as amended is the principal legislation governing these type of claims. The legislation allows for an action to be brought and a claim to be made for financial loss, funeral expenses and mental distress on behalf of all the dependants as a result of the deceased’s death.
What damages are recoverable?
Section 49 of the Civil Liability Act specifies the type of damages which are recoverable in fatal injury claims.
(1) Mental Distress
There is a monetary limit on the compensation that dependants can recover for mental distress and pain and suffering as a result of the death of a loved one. At present, this figure is €35,000 and it is divided between all of the dependants.
(2) Financial Loss
Financial or pecuniary losses are the benefits that each dependant expected to receive had the deceased not died as a result of the wrongful act. Such losses include loss of earnings and loss of pension. It also includes loss of services provided by the deceased for example in home repairs and maintenance, DIY, childcare or any other service or benefit that the deceased provided that may be measured in monetary terms.
(3) Funeral Expenses
Funeral and other related expenses are also recoverable. However, if the dependants receive a death grant then this sum must be deducted when calculating the expenses incurred.
(4) Post-Traumatic Stress / Nervous Shock / Abnormal Grief Reactions
In the event that a dependant has suffered nervous shock or an abnormal grief reaction due to the negligent nature of the deceased’s death it may be possible to take a separate and independent personal injuries action for that dependant.
Who is classified as a Dependant?
A Dependant is defined as any of the following:
Spouse, Civil Partner, Cohabitee, Separated Spouse or Divorced Spouse.
Children, Adopted children, Step-children or a person to whom the deceased has
acted in loco-parentis to.
Parents or Step-parents.
Grandparents and Grandchildren.
Brother and Sisters, Half Brothers and Half Sisters.
A former spouse who is divorced from the deceased is classified as a dependant if they can show that they have suffered financial loss as a result of the death. They are not permitted to recover compensation for mental distress.
A cohabitee is someone who is not married to the deceased but who until the date of the deceased’s death had been living with the deceased as a husband or wife for a continuous period of not less than three years.
Usually the immediate next of kin of the deceased would bring the action on their own behalf and for the benefit of all the other dependants.
A bereaved person’s primary concern is dealing with the loss and grief following the death of a loved one however they also have to be mindful of the time limits for taking fatal injury claims.
An action must generally be taken within two years from the date of death of the deceased. If an action is taken outside this time period the claim may be statute barred.
The Statute of Limitations does apply exceptions to the ordinary limitation periods. for people suffering from a disability such as those with an intellectual disability and minors (under 18 years of age). For example a minor is allowed a further two years from the day of their 18th birthday to take a personal injuries action.
Generally it is safer to move sooner rather than later as the Courts retain jurisdiction to stop a case proceeding, (even if started within the statutory time limits), if it can be shown that the delay in bringing the case has caused prejudice to a Defendant.
At Cantillons Solicitors we take great care to ensure that thoughtful and clear advice is given to those left behind covering all the options that may be open to dependants.
Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or [email protected] if you would like more information.
* In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.