The loss of a loved one in an event as sudden, unexpected and tragic as a motor vehicle accident invariably changes the lives the loved ones left behind, and leaves a hole in their lives that no amount of money will ever fill.

However, fortunately the law does make some provision for the devastating personal and financial consequences the loss of a loved in a motor vehicle accident can have, and allows for family members to bring claims for compensation in particular circumstances.

Essentially, there are two different types of claims which immediate family members may be able to bring against the insurance company of the car/driver that hit and killed their loved one.

Compensation to Relatives Claims

The first type of claim is a Compensation to Relatives claim. A Compensation to Relatives claim is aimed at compensating the immediate family members who were financially dependent on the income of the deceased, or who relied on them to provide services such as indoor or outdoor domestic duties, handyman work in or around the home, transport and child care, to name a few.

When lodging a Compensation to Relatives claim, only one claim is brought against the insurer on behalf of all family members who were dependent on the deceased for services (such as those listed above), as well as for all immediate family members who were dependent on the deceased’s income.

Importantly, also included in a Compensation to Relatives claim is the funeral expenses that are incurred by the family.

Nervous Shock Claims

The second type of claim that immediate family members of the deceased can and often do bring is a Personal Injury Claim arising from the shock of learning of and losing their loved in such unexpected and tragic circumstances.

These claims, often referred to as ‘nervous shock’ claims, are brought on the basis of the adverse psychological response a family member may have to the circumstances in which their loved one was killed.

In order to be entitled to bring a claim for compensation for nervous shock, a person needs to be diagnosed as having suffered a recognisable psychiatric illness in response to the shock of witnessing or learning of the death of their loved in the motor vehicle accident.

Often it is difficult to know whether a persons response to the death of loved one in these circumstances is a normal grief reaction, or whether it has or will manifest into something more severe and long term.

There is a six-month limitation period for lodging a claim form in respect of claims arising from a motor vehicle accident. however, the law does recognise that in the case of psychological injuries arising from the loss of a loved one, the symptoms and diagnosis may not be immediately apparent. This is particularly so when a person is in shock or denial of what has happened. We often find that it can taken many months for the reality of their loss to truly ‘hit’ our clients and start to have a destructive impact on their lives.

It is for this reason we keep a close eye on how our clients progress over the months following the accident and, in circumstances where a persons reaction to the loss of their loved one continues to have a impact upon their ability to engage in every day activities, to function within the context of their other relationships, to go to work and the like, we will recommend they see a professional for treatment (if not already) and that they obtain a diagnosis as to the extent of their reaction to their loss. In the event they are diagnosed as suffering a psychiatric condition, such as depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder and so on, we will assist them to lodge a Personal Injury Claim From with the insurer of the vehicle at fault.

If you or someone you know has recently lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact Stacks Goudkamp on 1800 25 1800, or alternatively make and online enquiry.