What to do if a loved one has died in a road crash

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Losing a loved one in a car crash undoubtedly has a devastating impact on everyone involved, but the unexpected element of a road traffic collision (RTC) death can make it even more difficult for friends and relatives to come to terms with.

With any deaths of this type, the authorities are highly likely to be involved in order to establish the cause of death, and an autopsy may be required by law to help the police with their investigation. All of which can make the grieving process even more difficult to bear.

At this difficult time, considering legal action to establish a cause of death may be the last thing on your mind, but claiming compensation may help to bring those responsible to justice, as well as helping you to rebuild your life in the aftermath of such a traumatic event.

To award compensation, civil law requires someone (usually a driver in the case of road deaths) to be found at least partly responsible for a death. Sometimes this is possible even if no-one was charged with a criminal offence.

It may be possible for you to make a compensation claim for a road death if you are:

  • a dependent of the deceased – including a child, spouse, partner or another family member who has been directly provided for financially by the person who has died;
  • a relative of the deceased – family members who were not financially dependent on the deceased, but may have experienced hardship as a result of their death; or
  • the estate of the deceased – those who may have suffered some form of hardship as a result of the death of the deceased.

While there are a considerable number of circumstances that can lead to a person’s wrongful death, the most common road deaths are caused by:

  • Car crashes – resulting in the death of a driver or passenger
  • Incidents involving a vehicle that results in the death of a pedestrian
  • Cycling collisions
  • Motorcycle collisions

It is important to seek legal advice from a solicitor who can advise on the best course of action to take. Your solicitor will ask you for information about the death, including how it occurred, where it took place and who – if anybody – was at fault.

You will also be asked to prove your rights as a dependent, family member or representative of the estate of the person who has died.

What can I claim for?

Compensation claims after a road death can vary considerably, depending on how someone died and their relationship with the claimant. In general, a compensation claim can be made for the following:

  • General damages – covering loss of family income or psychological anguish caused by the death of a loved one
  • Medical expenses – incurred by the deceased prior to their death
  • Punitive damages – covers additional damages levied against the party responsible for the incident
  • Funeral expenses

As well as helping you to make a claim, some solicitors will offer advice in other areas in order to assist you and your family as much as possible. This support can include guidance on state benefits and statutory bereavement awards, referral to an independent financial advisor if necessary, as well as referral to probate solicitors in order to discuss dealing with your loved one’s estate.

Knowing where to turn in this extremely high-stress situation is incredibly difficult for the families of people who have died in a crash. It is likely that you may not want to act at all, but understanding what steps you can take, if you wish, may help to make things clearer at this difficult time.

Brake publishes information and advice for bereaved families and friends following a death on the road. This guidance contains information on what happens after a crash, practical issues, investigations and criminal charges, court cases, claiming compensation, and useful organisations. Click here to find out more.

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Thursday, 22 October 2020

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