Losing a loved one in a road traffic accident is a highly traumatic experience. In the days and weeks following the death, there will be intense feelings of shock, grief and loss.
Making a claim for financial compensation will likely be the very last thing on everyone’s mind. After all, no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one.
However, as time passes, practical considerations start to come to the fore, especially for those who were financially or practically dependent on the person who has died. For example, there may have been financial dependency on the wages of the deceased or they were responsible for looking after children or elderly relatives.
A partner or family member with a financial dependency on the person who has passed away as a result of a road accident caused by the fault or negligence of another person, is entitled to make a compensation claim to meet any financial losses and expenses. This is where the knowledge and experience of Thompsons’ team of caring, expert lawyers can help ease the burden.
We hope that the following step-by-step guide clearly outlines the processes and stages involved, for anyone deciding to make a compensation claim following a fatal road traffic accident.
Family liaison officers
Regardless of whether the loved one was a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist or driver, there will be involvement from police accident investigators following a fatal road traffic accident.
Police accident investigators are involved in every fatal road traffic accident. They are expected to complete a thorough investigation and that may lead to them recommending a prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service or there may be an inquest by the Coroner for the area where the accident took place. Both of these processes can be lengthy, which can delay the funeral taking place. Fortunately, there is emotional and practical support available for families.
Families will be assigned a police family liaison officer with the task of guiding relatives through the administrative processes involved. Family liaison officers are there to provide emotional support and practical guidance for a family while the cause of the incident is being investigated.
The client contacts Thompsons and is assigned a specialist lawyer
The days, weeks and months following a fatal road traffic accident are a distressing and disorientating time for anyone who has lost a loved one.
Our team has decades of experience in providing support and managing claims in a way that can help make the process less stressful. They will keep the client regularly updated and can act as a representative, a buffer, with some of the organisations who will want to speak to them.
Contact can be made either via the free telephone helpline on 0800 0 224 224 or by completing our online claim form. The lawyer at the end of the phone and who will be assigned to the case will have detailed and specific experience in road traffic accidents and will explain in a friendly, professional way what needs to be done at each stage.
The last thing on anyone’s mind after a traumatic death is probate – dealing with the will and the ‘estate’ of the deceased - but unfortunately, it is a step that needs to be taken. Sometimes it can help give someone who is grieving a focus and a sense of purpose.
A fatal accident claim must be brought by the ‘personal representatives’ of the deceased. If the deceased left a will, the personal representatives will be the executors of that will.
At Thompsons we have lawyers who can help to sort out the probate at a reasonable cost (which can be added to any claim that you are making) and who will have helped people in this sort of situation before.
We can still arrange for a grant of probate to be obtained even if the deceased did not leave a will.
Thompsons gathers evidence to support the case
We need to start to gather evidence for a compensation claim as soon as possible to ensure that we can provide prompt and practical advice. We need to prove that another road user was at fault and that will almost certainly involve obtaining witness evidence and police reports to establish what happened and who was at fault.
If necessary, we will attend any criminal prosecution (typically of the other driver in the accident) and will liaise with the Coroner. Where it is necessary we will provide legal assistance and representation at the inquest hearing. Sometimes the other party won’t accept liability for the accident until after the inquest.
We will make enquiries about the other party, to find out for instance if they were insured. If they were, we will liaise with their insurance company and see if they are prepared to admit liability. If they were not insured, we will contact and make a claim against an organisation called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).
If we cannot trace who was responsible for the accident, we may still be able to bring a claim and again this would be against the MIB.
Building the Claim and Negotiating Settlement
We will draft a Schedule of Loss and Dependency. This sets out who will lose out financially from the death and what their losses will be. Although no amount of money can ever compensate a person and their family for what they will go through, let alone their loss, it is our job to get the maximum compensation, in the shortest time possible.
We will obtain details of the deceased’s wages and other income, as well as the income of other members of the household. We will ask those left behind to describe what the loved one did to look after the family/the home/the car which will include things like childcare, domestic tasks, DIY and gardening.
If the other party has admitted that they were at fault, their insurers may try to settle the claim before court proceedings are issued. We will advise on any offers which are made and, if it is appropriate and necessary, we can arrange a conference with an experienced barrister who will give the best possible advice.
Thompsons prepares a submission to the courts
If the other party’s offer is insufficient, or they don’t make an offer at all, then there may be no choice but to commence court proceedings.
Before the case reaches its final hearing, the parties continue to negotiate and our job is to keep our client fully informed. Ultimately, if the parties cannot agree on a figure of settlement through negotiation, the case proceeds to a final hearing.
At the final hearing, the judge will consider all the evidence, and decide if the claim should succeed and if so, how much should be awarded in compensation. The vast majority of claims are settled before any hearing.
Who is responsible for covering the cost of legal fees?
If the deceased was a trade union member or if the person bringing the claim was a member, there is no need to worry about legal fees and there will be no deduction from compensation; those left behind will receive 100% of anything recovered from the party at fault.
For non-union members, Thompsons can offer a conditional fee agreement, often known as a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement. Find out more about our fees on our fees and payment page.
Losing a loved one means every emotion is heightened and the bereaved can feel they have lost their focus. In addition to receiving practical help and advice, it’s important that mental health is considered and there is emotional support in place.
RoadPeace is a national charity whose members have been through a similar experience. They will be able to share practical advice and arrange conversations with others who have been in a similar situation and will have a better understanding of what happens. We work closely with RoadPeace and can make contact with them, if they haven’t already reached out.