Dependency Claims: Criteria and Financial Compensation

Leonie Millard
Leonie Millard

Published: October 1st, 2021

5 mins read

If you have lost a loved one and are considering making a claim for dependency, there are various legal requirements that set out the basis of being able to make such a claim, and what compensation is available if you are an eligible dependent. We will explore this further in this article.

Criteria for Dependency The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 contains a list of categories that set out who may be eligible to make a dependency claim. This is quite a broad list as follows:

  • Spouse, civil partner, former spouse or civil partner of the deceased
  • Couples who were cohabiting for a minimum of two years before the deceased passed away
  • Any parent (or person the deceased treated as a parent e.g., stepparent) of the deceased
  • Any child or descendant of the deceased
  • Where the deceased was married or in a civil partnership, any person the deceased treated as a child or parent in relation to that marriage or civil partnership (such as a stepchild)
  • Siblings, aunts, or uncles of the deceased.

When an individual has passed away because of another's negligence, the individuals listed above may be eligible to bring a claim for money as a dependant of the deceased. The individual bringing the dependency claim must have been in some way reasonably reliant on the deceased for some form of financial support or service and, because of the death, these financial needs or other services can no longer be provided by the person who has died, and the dependant has suffered a loss. The court may therefore award compensation based on the loss of support the dependant has suffered.

Dependency claims therefore generally include two areas:

  1. Financial Dependency - A situation where the dependent is financially worse off than they would be had the deceased survived. For example, a spouse who was reliant on their deceased partners income.

Value of Financial Dependency Claim - This includes considering the earnings that the deceased would have earned had the accident not occurred. The deceased's lost pension, any alternative income and savings may also be considered. However, this is a complex calculation, given that the court will consider that had the deceased survived, they would have continued to earn money but also continued to spend that money.

To establish financial dependency, it is necessary to show reasonable expectation that they would be supported. Evidence is gathered from bank statements of past financial support, and intention.

The case of Davies v Taylor, (1974), A.C.207 confirmed that it was sufficient to show substantial possibility. It did not go as far as to say, more likely than not, the yardstick often applied in civil claims.

When looking at future dependency, a Court will look at the specific circumstances of the case and evidence of future intention. If there are dependent children, should money be set aside for their first time homes or a wedding?

There may be special circumstances to consider if the Deceased was a business owner.

If the Deceased was intending to divorce, any financial settlement might be relevant.

At Forbes, we can navigate the case law that considers the unique circumstances to achieve the best settlement for those that are entitled, and rely on it.

  1. Loss of Service Dependency - a situation where the deceased performed an act for the benefit of the Dependent which can no longer be carried out. For example, DIY tasks, or housework that need to be now carried out by a professional or carer. It might include a primary carer for a child or an elderly relative. This list is non exhaustive but these are generally the non paid jobs that allow the household to function and should not be underestimated.

As with financial dependency, it is important to establish intention if, 'specific roles were not being performed at the date of death'.

When none professional care is substituted by a relative, the case of Steve Hill v Witham, ,(2021), EWCA CIV1312, the Local Authority did not apply deduction to the rate for gratuitous receipt. The commercial standard was applied.

It might be preferable for a family member to give up work and seek to claim loss of earnings to reflect the loss in wage. Whether the Court will award the loss of earnings or loss of services in the circumstances will depend on the facts of the case.

Statutory Bereavement Award In addition to the above financial claims, there is also the existence of the Statutory Bereavement Award, which is still subject to the eligibility requirements discussed above.

The compensation for a bereavement award has been increased from £12,980 to £15,120. This applies to families who have lost a loved one on or after 1st May 2020. Families who have already suffered prior to this date will receive the old award of £12,980.

As we have discussed, the calculations in relation to dependency claims are complex and individual to each set of circumstances.

At Forbes, we can guide you on the best approach to meet your needs, financially and practically during this traumatic time.

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