Unfortunately, people are dying as a result of accidents. They are very often loving fathers, mothers providing support, including financial support to their family and relatives.
If someone dies due to the “wrongful act of another” in circumstances that would have entitled the party injured (who died) to claim and recover damages, the person who would have been liable to such action (responsible) is liable in an action which may be commenced for the benefit of the dependants of the deceased.
There are several very specific rules in relation how the dependants of the deceased person can claim damages:
- There is only one action possible (so all entitled dependants shall open one court proceedings)
- The court case shall be brought by the personal representative of the deceased so a person who has a legal title to represent the deceased; after expiry of 6 months from the death the case can be brought by any dependant
- The one action that is started shall be for the benefit of all the dependants (below information who is dependant)
Definition of Dependant
- spouse, civil partner, parent, grand-parent, step-parent, child, grandchild, step-child, brother, sister
- a person whose marriage (or civil partnership) to the deceased has been dissolved by a decree of divorce
- a person who was not married to the deceased but who, until the deceased’s death, had been living with the deceased as husband or wife for e continuous period of not less than three years
Fatal injury- when to start the case
It is very important to note that, while the statute of limitations is the same in terms of the timeframe- two years from the date of the death or the date of knowledge of the person for whose benefit the action is brought (later date applies), there is a different process to be followed. Please remember that all the dependants shall be established as only one action can be brought. There is also a different application form to be submitted to the Injuries Board.
Fatal injuries- damages
There are three categories of damages which dependant can recover:
- injury which is the loss of personal services which means loss of financial support as a result of the death (loss of financial dependency)
- mental distress
- funeral expenses
Loss of Financial Dependency
The damages which may be recovered are in the nature of a compensation for the pecuniary loss sustained by the dependants. Those damages will be calculated by a reference to a reasonable expectation of pecuniary benefit accruing to the dependant if the life continued. So, to put it in simple terms, it is a compensation for the monetary loss sustained by those who depended on the fatally injured as a source of income. Each dependant must prove what is the loss in their case individually. As an example, in relation to a child of the fatally injured person, it will be the equivalent of financial support that would have been in place if that person had not died and would have supported their child thorough life till the child is 18 or 23 if child attends third level education.
Damages for mental distress
Damages for mental distress relating to fatal injuries are separate to other forms of damages which are recoverable. So as an example, parent who unfortunately witnessed the death of their child in a road traffic accident, may potentially have a claim for nervous shock- that is a separate claim) as well as a claim for damages for mental distress.
The maximum amount that can be awarded for mental distress to the dependants of the decedent is €25,394. If there is more than one dependant that sum represents the total amount which must be shared between them.
Such funeral expenses must be of reasonable nature considering the culture, race and religion of the deceased. You shall collect all receipts for all those expenses so they can be vouched.