In the United States compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one can be huge, even in cases where the claimant was not financially dependent on the person who was killed.
This is not the case in Australia.
In Australia the relatives of deceased accident victims have no automatic right to receive death benefits. Rather they have to fit in to one of two categories of claims, namely:
- Loss of dependency.
- Nervous shock.
- Loss of dependency
In order to qualify for compensation in a “compensation to relatives” claim the deceased’s relative has to prove that he or she was financially and/or in some other way dependent on the deceased. These claims include the recovery of funeral expenses. The claims can only be made by one of the dependents, who brings the claim on behalf of all other dependents who wish to be included in the claim.
Compensation to relatives claims can be very significant in cases where the deceased was a high income earner with a dependent spouse and dependent children.
- Nervous shock
The important thing to know is that no compensation is payable for grief. Compensation is only payable if the relative of the deceased person has suffered something more than grief namely a psychiatric injury such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, panic attacks.
It is extremely difficult in many cases to know when grief has ended and psychiatric injuries have begun.
In road accident death claims in New South Wales a claim for nervous shock is supposed to be made within six months of the date of the accident or death. However in many cases grief has not yet turned into a psychiatric condition within the initial six months of the date of the accident or death. This means that many claims are either brought prematurely and may have to be abandoned if grief does not turn into a psychiatric condition, or the claims are regarded as being “late” which gives insurance companies the opportunity to seek a full and satisfactory explanation for the delay. Fortunately the late onset of psychiatric symptoms is generally a good excuse for the delay and the vast majority of late nervous shock claims are allowed to proceed.
Once nervous shock has been established the claimant is entitled to damages pursuant to the Motor Accidents Compensation Act 1999. The claims may include claims for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life, economic losses and claims for attendant care services.
If you have had the misfortune to lose a loved one in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. For obligation free advice from one of our compensation experts, you can contact us on 1800 25 1800, or alternatively, make an online enquiry.
Written by Tom Goudkamp.