In personal injury matters, where a death has occurred, the question of dependency claims is an area of the Law which is often misinterpreted by the claimants, and in this blog I will review and navigate the relevant legislation.
Who is eligible to claim for dependency?
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 contains a list of categories setting out who may be eligible to make a dependency claim. In order to successfully bring a claim for any loss of dependency, the claimant must be one of the following people:
(a) the wife or husband or former wife or husband of the deceased;
(aa) the civil partner or former civil partner of the deceased;
(b) any person who—
(i) was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death; and
(ii) had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before that date; and
(iii) was living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased;
(c) any parent or other ascendant of the deceased;
(d) any person who was treated by the deceased as his parent;
(e) any child or other descendant of the deceased;
(f) any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any marriage to which the deceased was at any time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage;
(fa) any person (not being a child of the deceased) who, in the case of any civil partnership in which the deceased was at any time a civil partner, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that civil partnership;
(g) any person who is, or is the issue of, a brother, sister, uncle or aunt of the deceased.
Claims that can be made by dependents
When someone has died because of another’s negligence, dependents of the deceased can claim for the financial support and/or services that they would have received from the person who has died.
To recover this compensation, the claimant, must show that they had a ‘reasonable expectation’ of financial benefit from the deceased, from either the deceased’s earnings, savings, pension or other income. Further, the person making the claim needs to show that the chance of receiving some financial benefit was “substantial”, rather than just a possibility.
A financial dependency claim can be calculated by considering the earnings the deceased would have earned, had the accident not occurred. However, it is not as straightforward as merely considering these losses purely for the benefit of the claimant. Had the deceased survived, they would have continued to earn and spend money on themselves. Therefore, before any financial dependency award is made, a percentage deduction must be made to take this into account.
The Courts have adopted the approach set out in the case of Harris v Empress Motors where it was decided that for partners who lived together with one child or more, they would each have spent one quarter of their income on themselves and the rest jointly, so the dependency percentage is 75%. For partners with no children, they would have each spent one third of their income on themselves and the rest jointly, so the dependency percentage is 66%.
Partner and no children calculation
If the deceased had a partner but no children, and the deceased earned £35,000 pa and the dependent partner earned £25,000 pa, the calculation will be as follows:
£35,000 + £25,000 = £60,000
£60,000 x two-thirds (the thirds spent jointly and on the dependent partner) =£39,600
Less the £25,000 that the dependant partner earned = £14,600 dependency claim per annum.
Partner and children calculation
If the deceased had a partner and dependent children, and the deceased earned £35,000 pa and the dependent partner earned £25,000 pa, the calculation will be as follows:
£35,000 + £25,000 = £60,000
£60,000 x 75% =£45.000
Less the £25,000 that the dependant partner earned = £20,000 dependency claim per annum.
Loss of services
In addition to the loss of financial support, a claim may be made for the loss of the deceased’s services. This can include things like helping around the house, gardening, DIY and even their services as a mother or father.
Loss of love and affection
In addition, claims for “loss of love and affection” can also be submitted, where the services previously provided by the deceased were over and above those that could be provided by a housekeeper or nanny.
Of course, no amount of compensation will ever put someone back in the position they would have been had their loved one survived.