When someone is killed in a road traffic accident in England and Wales, the Coroner always gets involved. The Coroner’s Court is much less formal than the Criminal or Civil Courts so no traditional wigs or robes.
The purpose of an inquest is not to apportion blame or determine criminal liability but to establish who the deceased was, how he or she died and what caused that death. (Sometimes liability may come to light during the inquest, so it is a highly useful procedure).
If you’re in the unfortunate position of dealing with the Coroner or any of his or her staff, you’ll find them extremely sympathetic and helpful. They deal with grieving families every day and understand exactly what you’re going through.
In the case of fatal road traffic accidents, there will be a detailed police accident report. This is compiled by a specialist police collision investigator who will have examined all the evidence from the scene, the vehicles involved and what the witnesses said. Our experience and expertise has shown us that occasionally police accident investigators make mistakes – that’s why we may commission our own accident reconstruction experts in any case where there’s a dispute over liability.
You do not have to attend the inquest if you do not want to. If you appoint us as your solicitors, we will arrange legal representation for you at the Coroner’s Court if you wish to attend. We understand that it will be a daunting and possibly traumatic experience for you.
If the evidence is compelling enough following a fatal accident, then the police will charge a third party with a criminal offence. (What type of offence of course is dictated by the nature of the evidence.)
Generally in road traffic accident claims, the charges are Causing Death by Dangerous Driving, Causing Death by Careless Driving or Driving without Due Care and Attention. As you might imagine, the first of these is the most serious. If this charge is brought, then the Coroner’s Inquest will have to wait until the criminal proceedings have taken place.
Sometimes the Coroner chooses not to proceed to an inquest until he or she has heard either a guilty plea or a verdict in a criminal trial as the Coroner may take the view that there is no point in putting you through another hearing if all of the evidence has already been heard at a criminal trial.
Moving forward, the personal representative of the deceased (usually a spouse, parent or adult child) will need to get a Grant of Probate (if there is a will) or a Grant of Letters of Administration (if no will) so that they can deal with the deceased’s estate and financial affairs.
If there’s a will, the appointed representative from that will be the Executor of the Estate; if there isn’t, an Administrator will be appointed. Some banks and financial institutions will also deal with the deceased’s affairs without a Grant being obtained if the estate is worth less than £15,000.
Most insurance companies are very sympathetic and co-operative when dealing with a compensation claim following a fatality. As they should be – it’s probably the most traumatic thing the grieving family will ever experience. Sadly, not all insurance companies are as understanding. And if that’s the case, then you’ll need a good solicitors firm to go in and bat for you. In this kind of situation, our long-term experience and expertise would really stand you in good stead.
A civil claim for compensation (or damages, as it is sometimes known as) is designed to make the surviving family as financially secure as they would have been had the accident not happened and can be split into three different parts:
Funeral and Associated Expenses
The funeral costs, the cost of any headstone, property damaged in the accident and any insurance policy excess can all be recovered. Don’t let an insurance company bully you into what kind of funeral you should hold. As long as we can show evidence that the funeral was not excessive or over the top, then all the expenses mentioned above can be recouped.
If the fatal accident took place after the January 1st 2008, a one-off payment of £11,800 is claimed under the law. For accidents on or after the 1st April 2013, the bereavement damages have been increased to £12,980.00. Only the following can make a claim for this sum:
- Married Spouses
- Parents of a legitimate Child who was under 18 when that child died
- The mother of a deceased Child who was illegitimate.
If you don’t match any of that criteria, then we’re sorry – you’re not entitled to the bereavement award, and that goes for the fathers of illegitimate children,unmarried co-habitees and same-sex couples under current law.
A dependency claim needs to establish that you were dependent on the deceased and that you would have carried on being dependent in some way had he or she not met with a fatal accident. You can be either:
- The spouse or former spouse of the deceased
- A person who was living with the deceased as though they were married for at least two years before the date of death
- A parent, grandparent or great grandparent of the deceased
- Anyone who was treated by the deceased as his or her parent
- Any child or other descendant of the deceased who was treated as a child of his or her family.
We understand that some of these criteria may confuse you. They’re almost designed to be highly convoluted and complicated. Fortunately we have the correct legal knowledge and expertise to help you decipher exactly where you stand.
If you are in a position where you have lost someone you love, and you need to know what to do next and where you stand from a legal viewpoint, then you should give us a call on 03300 080 321. You’ll be talking to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. Or if you’d prefer, fill out our online form instead.