In what situations might a fatal injuries case arise?
The most common situations are:
Accidents in the Workplace
Road Traffic Accidents[soundcloud id=213647307]
Who may bring such a case?
A fatal Injury action is usually brought by a ‘Statutory Dependant’. The phrase ‘statutory dependant’ includes a spouse or a partner where that person and the deceased lived together as a married couple might for 3 years or more prior to the death. It also includes parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren, stepchildren and half siblings.
Only one case may be brought in respect of each fatality and all statutory dependants must be named in that single case.
Will there be an Inquest?
When a death occurs that is unexpected, unnatural, violent or unexplained – the coroner is notified. He or she may decide to ask for a post mortem and may hold an inquest. An inquest would not normally be held if a post-mortem examination of the body could explain the cause of death. In some deaths inquests are legally required.
Do you need a solicitor?
We regularly attend and advocate on behalf of bereaved families at coroner’s inquests. This job includes offering support, preparation for and representation at the hearing, and advice as to the outcome and the way forward.
We are regularly instructed to represent bereaved families at Inquests following the death of a loved one arising from medical accidents in hospitals, accidents at work, road traffic accidents and unexpected deaths in a hospital.
There is no legal requirement for anyone to have such representation but if the deceased’s family has concerns e.g. over the care received while in hospital or how the accident happened, we endeavour to explore these issues to the best of our abilities within the constraints of the Inquest process. Whilst no allegations concerning liability can be made, crucial information can be obtained nonetheless.
What an Inquest does
An inquest is an official, public inquiry, conducted by the coroner and, in some cases, in front of a jury. The purpose of an inquest is to find out who died – when, where, how and in what circumstances.
In advance of the Inquest, the Coroner will receive depositions from the relevant people involved, post mortem reports and medical records, if relevant. The Coroner may call medical or expert witnesses.
Many Clients find it hard to understand that the inquest is a fact-finding exercise – which means it is not to establish blame but rather to establish the circumstances surrounding the death.
At the conclusion of an Inquest, a verdict will be returned by the Coroner in relation to how, when and where the death occurred. The type of verdicts which can be returned include open verdict, misadventure, natural causes, accidental death or in some cases, unlawful killing.
Do people pursue a civil action after an inquest?
Often, Clients do pursue a civil case after an inquest, and as a result of the facts and findings that arise. This may be against an insurer, a public or corporate body which it appears are responsible for causing the death. Whilst no allegations concerning liability can be made at an inquest, crucial information can be obtained which can be very useful in a subsequent claim for compensation.
Who pays for legal representation at an inquest?
Whilst nothing will ever adequately compensate you for your loss, you have a right to compensation if you are surviving dependent and the fatality was as a consequence of someone else being wholly or partially negligent. Surviving dependents include spouses, civil partners, parents and children of fatalities who were under 18 years.
Many Client’s are concerned about the cost of engaging legal representation for an inquest and a recent High Court decision has been helpful by find that in circumstances where the death has been shown to be due to the wrongful act of another, it may be possible in the majority of cases to recover the cost of legal representation at an Inquest in the subsequent civil case.
How are the Damages calculated in a fatal injuiries case?
(i) Special Damages
These are out of pocket expenses arising from the death such as travel, funeral expenses and inquest expenses.
(ii) Emotional distress
This is also called ‘solatium’, this is the latin word from which we get the English word “solace”. The amount awarded for the emotional loss or grief caused to the family of the deceased is limited to €35,000 and this must be divided between all statutory dependents, it is not per claimant. These include a spouse, or divorced spouse, a cohabiting partner, parent, grandparent, step-parent, child, grandchild, sibling or half-sibling.
(iii) Damages for loss of dependency
This is often the largest element of the compensation. We examine the family circumstances and calculate the ongoing loss of income to the dependants. There may be loss of earnings or loss of benefits such as house repairs, childcare, driving among other activities that the deceased family member provided for the dependants. By carefully considering the role played by the deceased within the family, we can calculate the ongoing financial cost to the family and present this to the court.