In general “wrongful death” is a term that might be applied to any death that results due to the wrongful actions, the neglect or the default of another individual. England and Wales use the same legislation to govern cases of this type, while Scotland and Northern Ireland each have their own legislation to govern such cases. Wrongful death suits are extremely complex, as are the intricacies of the legislation governing them, so experienced solicitors should always be consulted for information and advice regarding specific cases.
England and Wales
The legislation governing wrongful death in England and Wales is the Fatal Accidents Act of 1976. This act allows relatives of people killed by the wrongful act, neglect or default of others to recover damages. This Act allows three types of claims to be made by relatives, including dependency claims which mean that certain former dependents of the deceased can seek financial compensation, bereavement claims which allow certain former dependents to claim a sum in recognition of the grief and suffering that they were caused, and funeral expenses claims to cover the cost of the funeral. Any awards given in respect to wrongful death suits, however, will take into account any social security benefits already received in respect to the case.
The legislation governing wrongful death in Scotland is the Damages (Scotland) Act 1993 which amends the Damages (Scotland) Act 1976. The legislation addresses the rights of relatives to claim compensation in relation to distress, grief, loss (of society, support, services) and funeral expenses. The legislation also allows for executors to claim damages stemming from the deceased’s wrongful death. Currently discussions in the Scottish legal community and government are ongoing regarding wrongful death compensations and the timing of wrongful death suits.
The Fatal Accidents (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, as amended, govern wrongful death cases in Northern Ireland. The Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 increased sum which could be awarded for bereavement in Northern Ireland under the Fatal Accidents (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, and the Limitation (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 established time limits for the bringing of suits under this legislation.
Brining a Wrongful Death Suit
Regardless of the location, if it is believed that someone in the United Kingdom died due to the wrongful act, neglect or default of another then relatives of the deceased should consult a solicitor experienced in personal injury claims immediately. This solicitor will help establish if the death was indeed wrongful, if the relative has the right to bring such a suit, what type of evidence will be needed to help build the case, which paperwork will need to be filled out to bring the case, and if the case is within all applicable time limits. As wrongful death cases can be particularly complex and confusing, having an experienced guide in the form of a solicitor will be invaluable. Solicitor fees will vary for such suits, so be sure to discuss your needs and ask for a best estimate before formally hiring anyone to work on the case. Asking around with several solicitors might always be a good means of finding out "going rates" and what the prevailing expectations are for your case. Settle on a solicitor whom you can afford and feel comfortable with, as wrongful death suits can be emotionally distressing throughout.