Fatal Accidents and Inquests
Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, but when there are questions over the circumstances involved it can make the situation even more challenging. A coroner’s inquest offers a chance to have your questions answered and give you closure but getting the answers you need is not always straightforward.
Our highly experienced legal team can offer the empathetic support and effective representation you need during a coroner’s inquest to help ensure your questions are answered satisfactorily.
We can also advise and represent you in relation to claiming compensation for fatal accidents, which is often essential to help you and your family deal with the impact of a loved one’s death.
With decades of experience, our inquests and fatal accident claims lawyers can give you the clear, sensitive guidance you need through every stage of proceedings, making things easier on you and your loved ones while ensuring you get a fair outcome.
We offer a free initial consultation for all new clients, so please get in touch to find out more about how we can help you with inquest representation and fatal accident compensation claims.
Our expertise in inquest representation and fatal accident claims
Paul has acted for the families of people killed under a variety of circumstances and is regularly praised by clients for his kind, patient and understanding approach to these sensitive and challenging matters.
Associate Solicitor Craig Butler joined the department in 2018 and has over 20 years’ experience acting for families of people killed in fatal accidents, with very strong expertise in handling fatal road traffic accidents.
Craig is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), as well as being a road safety advocate with road safety charity Brake and the South West Regional Co-ordinator for the Motor Accident Solicitors Society (MASS).
Our team have particular experience with various types of fatal accident claims, including:
- Fatal workplace accident claims
- Fatal road traffic accident claims
- Death in police custody claims
- Fatal criminal injury claims
Representation for inquests
We provide expert legal advice and support for coroner’s inquests, helping to guide you through what can be a difficult process while giving you the best chance of getting the answers you need about your loved one’s death.
What is a coroner’s inquest?
An inquest is a legal inquiry into the cause of death where the deceased has died suddenly or unnaturally, or whilst in police custody, or when the cause of death is still unclear after the post-mortem. An inquest is a forum of investigating what really happened and why. It will not give a verdict of wrong or right.
The coroner will establish the following facts:
- Who the deceased was
- Where they died
- When they died
- The cause of death
Will I need legal representation for a coroner’s inquest?
Legal representation at an inquest is important. The specialist team at Wolferstans are experienced in this complex area of law and the emotional consequences the process can have on families, friends and loved ones.
At times tragic accidents can attract media attention, which is not necessarily welcomed by those struggling to come to terms with such a loss. An experienced lawyer can act as an invaluable buffer or channel and keep such intrusions at arms length.
Wolferstans will represent your interests and ensure that the facts are investigated thoroughly, especially where the inquest could lead to a claim for compensation. Examples of this may be where the accident occurred at work, or as a result of a road traffic accident, during detention in police custody or from a criminal assault.
Can a coroner’s inquest award compensation?
The short answer is no. The coroner’s role is to establish the facts surrounding a death, not to decide who was to blame or make a decision about any party’s civil or criminal liability for the death. Therefore, they will not be involved in deciding whether any compensation is due to the family of the deceased.
To secure compensation for a fatal accident, you will need to make a separate civil compensation claim. The findings of a coroner’s inquest will often be critical to any fatal accident claim you make, however, so having the right legal representation at the inquest can make it much easier to get fair compensation later.
Making a fatal accident claim
We fully understand that compensation will never replace a loved one. However, a claim following an inquest can assist in highlighting wrongs where someone has acted negligently and help to ensure this will not happen again.
If you have lost a loved one and are considering making a claim, we can offer the specialist legal advice and compassionate personal support you need for every stage of the claims process.
With decades of experience and strong skills in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) we can typically resolve even the most complex fatal accident claims through an out-of-court settlement. This can allow you to get compensation faster while letting you avoid the additional stress and uncertainty of court proceedings.
However, we also have strong experience with pursuing fatal accident claims through the courts, so whatever approach is required, we can provide the legal support you need to secure a fair outcome.
What compensation can you claim for a fatal accident?
Depending on the circumstances, there are various types of compensation you may be entitled to, including:
- A statutory award of bereavement damages for close relatives, currently fixed at £15,120.00
- Claims for pain, suffering and loss of amenity during the period before death
- Funeral expenses
- Past and future loss of financial dependency for lost family income
- Past and future loss of the value of care and services provided
- Other expenses such as travel, damage to personal possessions/property, etc.
- Claims for psychological injury suffered by those exposed to the accident or its aftermath
Types of compensation for fatal accidents
Types of claims for compensation are listed below. The list is not exhaustive. Your solicitor may advise you to make one, several or none of these claims. All claims depend on liability (or blame) being established, to some extent, against the responsible party.
1. Dependency claims
In certain circumstances, people who were financially reliant (or who had an expectation of becoming dependant) on a person who has died can claim for the loss of that financial support. This is called a financial dependency claim. The amount that can be claimed is not fixed. It depends on the amount of financial support provided by the person who has died and how that would have continued in the future.
Loss of financial dependency will be worked out according to the income of the person who has died, the income of any dependants and how those incomes might have changed if the deceased had not died. Earnings and pensions – past and future – will be factored in.
A loss of services dependency claim can also be presented and might include loss of the value of childcare, DIY, or other domestic jobs or chores which were undertaken by a person who has died.
If you are making a dependency claim for yourself or on behalf of others such as a child, your solicitor will help you consider all losses and help work out how much to claim in total. Evidence, including income and employment records and household bills, may be required to prove dependency claims.
2. Bereavement awards
Some people may be entitled to a fixed statutory bereavement award. This is currently £12,980.00. This is, currently, only payable to someone who is bereaved of their husband, wife or civil partner or to the parents of a child who has died under the age of 18. Your solicitor can tell you if you are eligible for this award.
3. The shock suffered by bereaved people
You may be able to claim damages for the psychological injury you may have suffered as a result of being exposed to the immediate aftermath of a fatal road crash. There are strict criteria about who can claim. If you do not meet these criteria you may not be able to claim, even though you have suffered significant trauma. You cannot claim compensation for the psychological effect of grief or bereavement other than through the bereavement award.
4. The suffering of someone who has died
If someone died after surviving for a period of time, then it may be possible to claim compensation for their pain and suffering. The amount that can be claimed is largely based upon the amount of time that the person suffered and the extent of their awareness or suffering.
5. Burial or cremation expenses
The reasonable costs of a funeral (burial or cremation etc) and associated expenses such as a gravestone can usually be claimed. You should keep all receipts.
6. Other claims for personal injuries
If you, or anyone close to you, were injured in the crash, it is important to seek legal advice on your ability to make a claim for those injuries (and the losses resulting from them). In many cases it is possible to arrange for a rehabilitative treatment and support plan to be put in place and funded privately (in addition to the care offered by the NHS).
What about Life Assurance Payments?
Many mistakenly assume that receiving payment from a Life Assurance Policy is their only entitlement. Generally speaking this is not the case, and neither should such payments be deducted from compensation awards. Our expert lawyers are able to advise you on such matters and can ensure that you receive your true entitlement.
Funding your fatal accident claim
There are various options for funding a fatal accident compensation claim and where we believe you have a legitimate claim, we will always help you find a way to meet the legal costs.
The most common options for covering the cost of a fatal accident claim are:
Conditional Fee Agreements – Commonly called “no win, no fee” deals. With a no win, no fee fatal accident claim, there is no upfront cost to you for our services and we will only charge you for our legal fees if we succeed in securing compensation for you. This means there is no financial risk to you in making a claim and means your personal financial circumstances should be no barrier to your ability to pursue compensation.
Legal Expenses Insurance – Sometimes referred to as “Before the Event (BTE)” insurance, Family Legal Protection or similar names, this is often included with motor insurance, home insurance and other policies.
Trade Union Funding – May be available for fatal workplace accidents if the deceased was a member of a trade union.
Managing the affairs of someone who has died
We realise how important it is for you to know that things will be as straightforward as possible for your family and our fatal accidents team will work seamlessly with our private client team to achieve this.
It can be very daunting for someone when they have to deal with administering an estate, obtain a Grant of probate or even having to inform all the utilities and banks that someone has passed away. In a fatal injury case we can discuss how this can be made easier. We can help with our Bereavement Assistance Service, obtaining a Grant of Probate or helping to administer the whole estate.
To alleviate any immediate financial hardship, as well as seeking interim payments of damages, we can review your circumstances, any insurances, death cover or mortgage protection you may have and also advise on your entitlement to state benefits following sudden bereavement.