The firm of Aidan T Stapleton & Co has considerable experience in dealing with fatal accident claims on behalf of our clients over many years. Our experience extends to dealing on behalf of families where the deceased has died as a result of a road traffic accident, industrial accident, or has died through medical negligence. There are a great number of wrongful deaths in Ireland each year and because of the complex nature of these claims, our aim is to lessen the emotional and financial burden which invariably follows such an event, and to seek a satisfactory resolution for all the parties concerned as speedily as possible. We ensure that our clients are dealt with compassionately and efficiently whilst at the same time ensuring that they have the benefit of our experience in securing the best possible award of damages.
Fatal accident claims or fatal injury actions as they are also known, take the form of a “class action” where one action is brought on behalf of all the deceased’s dependants. Only the personal representative of the deceased is entitled to bring the fatal accident claim within the first six months; thereafter, all or any of the dependants are entitled to bring the action.
A dependant must have suffered financial loss or mental distress as a result of the deceased’s death and be related to the deceased as one of the following: spouse, parent, grandparent, step-parent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister or a divorced spouse or person who cohabited with the deceased as husband or wife (the latter two categories are subject to additional conditions and limitations).
Damages in fatal accident claims are assessed by a Judge alone, and the Judge must set out the separate amounts to each dependant under the different heads of damage. The types of damages recoverable are
(a) financial loss suffered as a result of the deceased’s death,
(b) damages for mental distress as a result of the death (also known as a solatium) and
(c) damages for the funeral and other expenses incurred.
Damages for Mental Distress
The damages recoverable for mental distress alone are capped at €25,395, which is a very low figure bearing in mind this might cover a large number of dependants and is to be divided between them. This has to be distinguished from a cause of action involving nervous shock which might also have been caused as a result of the death.
Damages for Financial/Pecuniary Loss
The principal type of damages recoverable in a fatal injury action is one of financial loss/pecuniary loss suffered by the dependants. The damages awarded under this heading can be extensive depending on the level of financial dependency that existed at the time of the accident. The plaintiff must however prove the financial loss which each of the dependants could reasonably have been expected to receive during their lifetimes, had the deceased not died as a result of the wrongful act.
An actuary is consulted to work out the full extent of the loss, and a report is then done up by the actuary setting it out. Damages run from the date of death, and the job of the actuary is to examine and establish the financial factors existing at the time of death giving rise to the loss, as well as the likely future financial losses. The report then forms the basis of the loss, which is relied upon in any settlement negotiations, or if the case proceeds to hearing.