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Your guide to fatal accidents in the workplace

Rescue team at the site of a collapsed building - fatal accidents at work

The first step in making a claim for a fatal accident at work is never easy. In many cases, the family just want to find out why the accident happened and why it was not prevented. An employer may not always communicate directly with the family or provide any clear and understandable explanation.  The company may even simply deny responsibility for the workplace death. This can be a distressing time.

Coming to terms with the sudden, devastating loss of a family member to a fatal accident at work may also be accompanied by other worrying concerns. Financial assistance could be urgently needed for a widow and dependants who may be left without immediate support. The family may have other concerns, such as what will happen if there has to be an Inquest.

No amount of compensation can replace the loss of a family member and there can often be an enormous emotional hurdle to overcome before even taking the decision to seek legal advice.

At Your Legal Friend, our dedicated team of specialist solicitors has over 30 years of experience in successfully resolving many different types of personal injury and fatal accident cases.  Our sensitive approach means we work with you to understand how everyone involved is affected, how we can construct the best possible claim for you and how we can help you secure crucial financial assistance during a most difficult time.

Fatal injury statistics

  • 265 fatal injuries in the main industries of: construction, manufacturing, agriculture, mining & quarrying, gas, electricity & water supply, sewerage, waste & recycling.
  • 51 fatal injuries to workers in services - 21%higher than the average of 42 for the past five years.          (Fatal Injuries In the Workplace - Health & Safety Executive, 2014/15)

Who can claim and how?

A compensation claim for a fatal accident can be brought by the Estate of the deceased and/or the dependants.

The types of claim that can be made for a fatal accident are typically:

  • A Bereavement & Dependency Claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976
  • A Claim under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934

Usually both types of claim are made together as one, where both the Estate and the dependants are typically bringing an action together.

Fatal Accidents Act 1976

  • Bereavement Claim

Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, dependants can bring a claim for a bereavement award which is a fixed sum that can be made only to the dependants of the deceased. In April 2013, this sum was increased to its current rate of £12,980.  The claim can also cover funeral expenses if these are paid for by the dependants.

  • Dependency Claim

In most circumstances, the Estate comprises the dependants in any event and usually (but not always) the surviving spouse and any children. The Estate ordinarily includes:

  • Wife, husband or civil partner
  • A person who has lived or cohabited with the deceased for two continuous years
  • Parent - if the deceased was under 18 years of age.

The purpose of this award is to ensure that the deceased’s dependants will not be financially worse off as a result of the death of their loved one. Therefore the deceased’s income, pension, and any services generally used for the benefit of the spouse or partner and children will be included in the value of the claim.

A claim for dependency can be made:

  • Against the employer of the deceased who lost his life in a fatal accident at the employer’s workplace.
  • For financial losses - a sum awarded to those who were dependent on the deceased’s income, pension and other employee allowances, if appropriate.
  • For services - an award for things the deceased did for the surviving dependants that they can’t do themselves, such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, gardening and DIY.

The calculation for the claim is usually based on the income the deceased would have earned for the rest of their life, including any future promotions and/or pension provision. An assessment is also made on how much of the income would have been spent on providing for the dependants and family of the deceased.

Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934

Under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934, the Estate of the deceased can legally make a claim for the death of a loved one. 

Claims that can be brought under this Act are those relating to:

  • General Damages – for pain and suffering caused to the deceased between injury and death
  • Special damages – for losses and expenses suffered between injury and death, including funeral expenses if paid for by the Estate.

Claims where death was not instant but occurred at a later date 

Additional claims for the costs of caring for the injured person, may include:

  • Carer’s lost earnings
  • Nursing care
  • Travel
  • Medical aids
  • Housing alterations and adaptations
  • Private health care
  • Administrative costs.

Death of a wife or mother

The wife is considered as a second source of income for the family, with her lost income also accompanied by a loss of services to the family.

Following a fatal accident, the calculation made in a husband’s claim for dependency also takes into account:

  • The wife’s earnings
  • Cost of employing a housekeeper or other helper

 - includes a sum for any board and lodgings and additional school costs.

How Your Legal Friend can help you

An employer has a legal responsibility to all employees, contractors and visitors in the workplace. The potential risks of a serious injury or fatal accident are always increased when there is breach in an employer’s duty of care to prevent unsafe conditions in the workplace.

Holding an employer to account and proving liability for neglect or failure to minimise the risk of a fatal accident in the workplace is not always straightforward. As experienced workplace law and fatal injury claim specialists, we know that you want to understand why a fatal accident occurred and see the people responsible for not preventing it held to account.

We ensure that your case is properly investigated, both expertly and sensitively, and help you build the best possible case for appropriate compensation to ensure your future financial needs are properly met.