If you were dependent on a family member who has passed away, you may be eligible for financial support. This extends beyond financial dependence, with compensation also available to those who were emotionally and domestically reliant on a deceased loved one.
To better understand what compensation you may be legally entitled to, read on or book a free consultation with one of our compensation lawyers.
Understanding compensation claims related to a family member’s passing
There are various legal contexts in which compensation claims can be filed relating to a family member’s passing. The legal avenue you pursue will depend both on the way your family member’s death occurred — for example, whether it was the result of another’s negligence or not — and your relationship with them.
There are four categories, broadly speaking, which apply here:
2) Motor vehicle-related deaths: Whether at the hand of another’s recklessness or due to no one’s fault, motor vehicle death claims extend beyond a fatal car accident to include motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians and other modes of transport.
3) Workplace-related deaths: Such claims generally apply to a breach of an employer’s duty of care to provide a safe workplace environment for employees and contractors. A breach of this duty may come in the form of inadequate safety measures, faulty equipment and/or substandard training, among other ways.
4) Premises liability-related deaths: Those who own or are responsible for publicly utilised premises have the legal obligation to provide a safe environment. Compensation claims related to public places generally stem from a breach of this obligation.
This isn’t an extensive list: given the wide range of causes, and each with its own associated legal frameworks and state-specific processes, it’s best to sit down with a compensation lawyer who can provide you with tailored legal advice and insight.
Wrongful death claim compensation
Pecuniary damages: This refers to coverage for any financial loss — or potential financial losses — that may result from the family member’s passing. Pecuniary damages may encompass funeral and burial expenses, any medical expenses relating to the deceased family member’s fatal accident and reduced future household earnings. These damages extend also to cover domestic factors, such as the deceased family member’s contributions to their family’s financial stability and the ongoing maintenance of the household.
Non-pecuniary damages: These damages refer to the pain and suffering — or the psychological impact — caused by the family member’s passing. Non-pecuniary damage compensation can look different depending on the context: a surviving spouse may be compensated for the loss of companionship and its associated emotional distress, while a dependent child may be compensated for a loss of guidance and support. Given the situational nature of non-pecuniary damages, the merit of each claim is assessed on a case-by-case basis with each individual state having its own relevant legislative frameworks. In terms of eligibility, a compensation claim can generally be pursued by any family member who is able to prove dependency — relating to pecuniary damages, non-pecuniary damages or both. The specific amount a dependent may receive in compensation may be affected by the following:
- Relationship to the deceased: Spouses, children, and — in some cases — extended family members are often those who are eligible for compensation.
- Age and life expectancy: Increased amounts of compensation may be provided for dependents who are younger and are of a higher life expectancy, and vice versa.
- Degree of psychological impairment: Non-pecuniary damages are generally related to psychiatrically-diagnosable mental health concerns, with more substantial psychological impairments warranting higher rates of compensation.
- Mitigating factors: Such factors may include contributory negligence (the deceased family member being partially responsible for their death), the sway of expert testimony and other relevant contributors.
The case’s context — both information-wise and jurisdiction-wise — will also inform the way compensation is received. A lump-sum payment may be offered in some cases and periodic instalments in others — or a mixture of the two.
The legal process for wrongful death claims
While you have three years from the family member’s passing to file the claim, the sooner you can begin the claims process, the better. The process generally begins with consulting a compensation lawyer where you discuss which legal options may be best suited to your case. Depending on your circumstance and which pathways are available to you, you may progress either to a private settlement, litigation or both.
- A private settlement: Generally in the form of mediation or a private negotiation with the relevant party’s insurer, a private settlement can be a cost- and time-effective means of obtaining compensation.
- Litigation: Mediation in most states is a prerequisite to litigation. If a settlement is unable to be reached, your legal representation may present your case before the court. Litigation tends to be more timely and costly compared to mediation, though no-win, no-fee agreements help to mitigate these concerns.
A private settlement may take less than six months to finalise, whereas litigation can extend several years — the more complex the case, the longer the legal process is likely to be. Expert legal representation helps to not only streamline the process, to the extent possible, but also to strengthen your case to ensure you receive the payout to which you’re entitled.
To strengthen your case, your legal counsel may help you gather any of the following evidence: medical records, eyewitness testimonies, expert witnesses, financial records implying dependency, psychiatric reports implying psychological impairment, police reports and communications documents, among others.
Given that various pieces of evidence may be difficult and costly to obtain, GMP Law takes on all upfront costs in no-win, no-fee agreements, including those involved in gathering evidence, and you only pay if the case is successful. At GMP Law, our no-win, no-fee policy is clearly laid out on our website, and our solicitors are able to answer any questions you may have about this or any of our other policies.
Contact GMP Law for a free consultation
At GMP Law, we’re here to make the legal process as simple as possible while ensuring you’re maximally compensated. We adopt a ‘triple C attitude’ — compassion, commitment and competency. By pursuing compensation for the passing of a family member, you can know you’re in good hands with us.