What does wrongful death mean?
Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a situation where a person has died due to someone else's negligence or wrongdoing.
This means that the death could have been prevented if reasonable care and attention had been taken by the party or parties responsible for the deceased's safety and well-being.
Examples of wrongful death
While it is not possible to compile an exhaustive list, various circumstances could result in wrongful death. The following are common types of accidents and events that may serve as a basis for making a wrongful death claim:
Fatal road traffic accident:
- Car accident resulting in the death of the driver or a passenger
- Vehicle accident resulting in the death of a pedestrian
- Cycling accident
- Motorcycle accident.
Fatal accident at work:
- Slip or trip accident resulting in death
- Operating machinery that results in death
- An accident involving a work vehicle that causes the death of a driver, passenger, or pedestrian on work premises
- Fatal fall from height.
- A death from cancer caused by exposure to carcinogens at work
- Fatal asbestos diseases.
- Negligence during a surgical procedure
- Misdiagnosis, including cancer misdiagnosis
- Negligence in maintaining sufficient healthcare for a patient
- Fatal prescription errors
- Negligence during childbirth causing the death of a mother or child.
Who can make a wrongful death claim?
Under the Compensation Act 2006, the family of a deceased person can claim compensation for wrongful death. Any family member classed as a 'dependent' of the deceased person can initiate the process.
Typically, the claim is brought by the deceased person's children or spouse, although it may vary based on individual family circumstances and may also include parents, siblings, or other close relatives.
In addition to dependency claims, the executor or administrator of the deceased's will and estate may be able to claim compensation known as a 'loss of amenity'.
This compensation does not seek to cover financial losses, but rather the pain and suffering of loved ones due to the wrongful death.
Is there a time limit to claim?
Yes, there is a time limit to make a wrongful death claim. The general rule is that a claim must be brought within three years from the date of death. However, this rule has some exceptions, such as in cases where the cause of death is not immediately known.
It is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible following the death of a loved one to ensure that you do not miss any important deadlines and to allow adequate time to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death.
How long does a claim take?
The timeframe for wrongful death claims can vary significantly. It may take anything from a few months to several years, depending on the particular circumstances of the case.
Claims can also take longer if it is not clear who is responsible for the wrongful death or if the defendant denies liability.
What evidence do I need?
If you are pursuing a wrongful death or fatal accident claim in the UK, your solicitor will need to gather evidence to support your case. Here are some types of evidence that may be relevant:
Medical records: If the death was caused by medical malpractice, medical records may be crucial in establishing liability. These records may include hospital admission records, doctors' notes, test results and treatment plans.
Autopsy report: An autopsy report is an examination of the body after death to determine the cause of death. It can be a critical piece of evidence in wrongful death claims.
Witness statements: Eyewitnesses can provide valuable testimony about what happened leading up to the death. Witness statements may be collected from family members, friends, bystanders, and medical professionals who were present during the incident.
Expert testimony: Expert witnesses can provide specialised knowledge and insight into the cause of the death. For example, a medical expert may be able to testify about the cause of death, while a financial expert may be able to estimate the value of lost earnings.
Police reports: If the death was the result of a criminal act, police reports can provide important information about the circumstances surrounding the death.
Photographs and videos: Photographs and videos can be powerful evidence in a wrongful death case. They can show the scene of the incident, injuries sustained and the emotional impact on loved ones.
Financial records: Records such as tax returns, pay slips and bank statements can be used to calculate the financial impact on the family.
Why should I choose Thompsons Solicitors?
If a family member has been the victim of a wrongful death, our experts can secure the compensation you deserve.
At Thompsons Solicitors, we only represent the injured and mistreated, never those who cause injury. Over the past 100 years, we have helped the relatives of thousands of people who have suffered a wrongful death get the compensation they deserve.
If you want to make a wrongful death claim, contact us today on our freephone number 0800 0 224 224 or complete our online claim form. Our initial assessment and legal advice are completely free of charge, and there’s no obligation to continue with a claim - so get in touch to see how we can help you today.