Fatal accident claims – what you need to know

Neille Ryan

Partner & Head of Personal Injury

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December 8, 2022

Categories Personal Injury Claims

What you need to know about fatal accident claims

I do a lot of fatal accident work sadly,  so you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve been following the case of Anne Sacoolas.  Anne Sacoolas pleaded guilty to causing the tragic death of Harry Dunn by her careless driving, and this week was apparently advised by the US government not to return to the UK for sentencing.

I thought some basic advice might prove useful to anyone out there who finds themselves facing the daunting prospect of investigating a claim arising out of the loss of a loved one.


To claim, someone other than the deceased must have been at least partly to blame for their death. Investigating isn’t always easy but was there an inquest, perhaps a police or health and safety investigation or, if the death was in any way related to medical treatment, an investigation by the NHS or private healthcare provider?

If yes and someone is to blame, these can all reveal priceless information/ documentation. But please don’t think that, unless there’s a criminal prosecution there can be no damages claim. What matters is – was someone else at least partly to blame for the death, not was that party’s conduct so bad that they have also committed an offence.

By way of illustration, I would have been very confident of a successful damages claim against Anne Sacoolas even if she hadn’t been prosecuted – she was driving on the wrong side of the road, so clearly at fault.

Who can claim

Keeping it simple, basically close family or the deceased’s Personal Representative (often known as their “Executor”).

What can be claimed

There are generally two types of losses:

  1. Firstly those suffered by the deceased’s estate,
  2. Secondly those suffered by the deceased’s ‘dependents’.

Estate claims

These are claims for losses/ expenses either suffered by the deceased between the accident and their death or by the deceased’s estate after death. Typically estate losses will include some (but often not all) of the funeral costs, damages for the deceased’s pain, suffering and loss of amenity between the accident and passing away, as well as possibly care costs, special aids and equipment, loss of earnings and so on sustained between the accident and death.

Statutory Bereavement Award

This is a fixed amount (currently £15,120) only available to a limited group of people. Only one Bereavement Award is paid so if there are multiple persons eligible, they must share it. Very briefly those eligible include spouses, civil partners, in certain circumstances cohabitees, and the parents of an unmarried child under the age of 18.

Regan Award

Named after the case of Regan v Williamson, this is a fixed amount, usually a few thousand pounds, which may sometimes be paid for the loss of the deceased’s love and affection. It tends to be only available to children who have lost a parent, or to the spouse of the deceased, although I have succeeded in obtaining Regan Awards in other circumstances.

Dependency Claims

Dependencies can be financial – basically the loss of the deceased’s financial support. To put it another way, had the deceased lived then can we prove that they would have spent some of their money on you – if yes then there’s a claim for that loss.

There can also be a dependency on services – basically damages for the loss of DIY, gardening, housework and so on which the deceased would have done for you had they lived.

When can you claim

There is a limited amount of time, known as the ‘limitation period‘ during which a claim must be either settled or Court proceedings issued to protect it.

Generally speaking this is 3 years from the date of death unless it can be proven that you didn’t know and couldn’t reasonably have known about the right to claim until some later date, in which case the 3 years starts to run from then.

Alternatively, where the Claimant is under the age of 18, the 3 years can’t start to run until their 18th birthday.

For information about fatal accident claims or other personal injury or medical negligence claims, contact Neille Ryan on 01227 763939.


See our previous blog from 2019 on fatal accident claims  >