If a loved one dies in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you are entitled to compensation to reflect the loss of services and financial support that the deceased would otherwise have provided to you. However, as a High Court case showed, proving the existence or extent of such dependency is not always an easy matter.
The case concerned the tragic death of a father of three who had been struck by a car travelling at 86mph in a 40mph zone. The accident was wholly caused by the motorist’s negligence. The deceased was his family’s primary bread-winner and, in those circumstances, his widow brought a loss of dependency claim against the motorist’s insurers.
The matter was, however, complicated by the fact that the middle-aged couple were separated and living apart at the time of the husband’s death. She had launched divorce proceedings and a decree nisi was granted following the accident. She argued that she still loved the deceased and that the probability was that the marriage would have survived and the divorce would never have been finalised. The insurers, however, submitted that the marriage was doomed and that the widow’s loss of dependency claim should be valued accordingly.
The Court noted that the couple’s relationship had endured for almost 30 years and that their marriage had for the most part been a happy one. There still existed love and affection between them. However, the marriage had been in trouble for a considerable period and the Court was wholly unpersuaded that the widow would have changed her mind and not gone through with the divorce.
The widow’s loss of dependency award was thus confined to sums that she would have received from the deceased by way of maintenance following their divorce. She was also entitled to be compensated for her bereavement, her husband’s funeral expenses and the cost of a memorial headstone. The children, only one of them still a minor, were awarded £5,000 each for the loss of the love and affection their father would otherwise have bestowed on them. The total award came to £101,514.
For advice and guidance on compensation claims, please contact Paul Keown on 020 7822 4168.