The law concerning who can make a fatal accident claim is governed by two Acts of Parliament:
Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934
Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (as amended)
Legislation distinguishes between what can be claimed on behalf of the estate, by members of the family (bereavement award) and by the dependants of the deceased.
Under the 1934 Act the estate (i.e.: executors or those entitled under intestacy rules) can claim for funeral expenses, the value of any property damaged/lost as a result of the accident, damages for any pain or suffering and losses incurred between the date of the accident and the date of death.
The spouse of the deceased or the parents of a child who died when under the age of 18 years are entitled to claim bereavement damages, which is a statutory fixed sum of £12,980. Only these persons can claim a bereavement award under the 1976 Act. No one else in the family is entitled to do so.
In addition to claiming bereavement damages, a person who was financially dependent on the deceased (which can encompass those not entitled to claim bereavement damages) may be entitled to recover damages for the loss of that dependency by making a claim for a dependency award.
The legal definition of a ‘dependant’ in these circumstances is precise, but is fairly broad ranging – from spouses and civil partners to grandparents, brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles, children and those treated by the deceased as a child of the family.
To bring a claim, dependants must prove they were actually financially dependent upon the deceased at the time of death, or relied on the deceased's services which had a financial value, or had a reasonable expectation of financial benefit whether directly from earnings or from services from the deceased in the future.