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  • APIL Guide to Fatal Accidents

APIL Guide to Fatal Accidents


This work provides practical advice on how to run a case involving a fatal accident

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Fatal accidents present the lawyer with a set of problems distinct from those of non-fatal personal injury claims. In particular, who does the law categorise as a dependant and how do you calculate the claim for dependency?

The APIL Guide to Fatal Accidents, now in its third edition, provides practical advice on how to run a case involving a fatal accident and how to secure maximum awards for the family, friends and estate of the deceased.

This new edition includes:
  • A new chapter on pre-action conduct
  • A new chapter on damages in anticipation of death
  • Ogden 7
  • A new section on fatal accidents and same sex relationships
  • A revised chapter on Coroner's Inquests following the implementation of the Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013 and the Coroners (Inquests) Rules 2013
Useful practical materials such as client questionnaires, draft pleadings and schedules of damages complement the text. In addition the relevant statutory materials and the 7th edition of the Ogden Tables are reproduced for ease of reference.

10% discount for APIL Members, to take advantage of this offer please call Customer Services on +44 (0)330 161 1234.

Initial Considerations

  • The Legal Background
  • Funding Fatal Accident Cases

Does the Client Have a Claim?

  • The Type of Incident that can give Rise to a Claim
  • Is Your Client a Dependant?
  • The Type of Financial Dependency that Entitles a Party to a Claim
  • Limitation and Other Matters that Could Bar a Fatal Accident Claim

Valuing the Dependency Claim

  • Basic Principles of Dependency Calculation
  • Section 4 of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 – Matters Which Should be Disregarded
  • Loss of an Income Earner
  • Damages for Death of a Mother or Carer
  • Dependency Cases: Parents of Adult Children; Loss of a Child
  • Difficult Issues in Dependency Claims

Non-dependency Claims

  • Damages in anticipation of death
  • Funeral Expenses
  • Bereavement Damages
  • Injuries and Losses of the Deceased Prior to Death
  • Damages for Injury to Another Arising Out of the Death


  • Pre-action conduct
  • Pre-action Protocols
  • Procedural Matters Upon Issue of Proceedings
  • Drafting Witness Statements
  • The Schedule of Damages
  • Apportionment

Matters Requiring Special Care

  • Damages in anticipation of death
  • Criminal Injuries and Fatal Accidents
  • An Introduction to the Coroners’ Inquest

Future Developments in the Law Relating to Fatal Accidents

  • The Law Commission Recommendations
  • Human Rights and Fatal Accident Claims


  • Example Client Questionnaire
  • Checklists
  • Precedents
  • Statutory Materials
  • Ogden Tables (7th Edition)
  • Further Reading
"provides first class practical advice"
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Phillip Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

"the new, second edition of the APIL Guide to Fatal Accidents ... gives excellent practical advice on how to run a case involving a fatal accident and how to secure maximum awards for the family, friends and the estate of the deceased person ... amazingly, in just over 300 pages, Exall takes us on a tour of the subject ... 26 chapters with 6 excellent appendices including the legislation and Ogden Tables ... Patrick Allen who describes the guide as 'a model of clarity and practical application for lawyers trying to find their way through the maze of law and procedure relating to fatal claims'"
Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers

"provides a very useful and accessible overview to a complicated subject"
PIBA newsline
Contribution from Paul Balen, Freeths



‘The quantification of the services provided by a mother is particularly difficult.’

Whilst the courts have set out relatively lucid principles in relation to the claim for loss of an income earner the principles governing loss of a ‘carer’ were unclear for an extended period. Whilst it was recognised that such a loss existed and should be compensated, it was the Law Commission that recognised problems in this area but no specific recommendations were made. It is likely that the ‘value’ of a claim for a carer was grossly undervalued for an extended period. In theory, there should be no distinction between this type of claim and a claim for financial loss. If, as in a case such as Welsh Ambulance Services v Williams, it is appropriate for damages to be based on the value of replacing the deceased’s services, then it would be logical to apply this approach to a claim for loss of services. Damages should be based on the cost of a replacement. Such losses are not a ‘solatium’ and real efforts must be made to assess, and put a value on, the cost of such services.

At the outset it should be said that addressing the issue of ‘loss of a mother’ is often a misnomer. What we are concerned with here is the issue of loss of a person who provides services rather than income. Further individuals, including fathers, are not just economic units. Claims for loss of services can be made in cases where there are claims for loss of income.


That loss of services has a real value can be seen clearly in the judgment in Knauer v Ministry of Justice where the court recognised that the loss of a wife in a ‘traditional’ relationship had a very real financial value which should be quantified by the commercial costs of replacing those services.


It is often argued that no award should be made for ‘past’ services (that is those losses up to the date of assessment of damages). The argument is that since no costs have been incurred then there is no loss. Such an argument was considered and roundly rejected in Knauer v Ministry of Justice:

‘Services dependency

25. Mr Poole argued vigorously that there should be no award for either past or future services dependency. Five years have passed since Mrs Knauer’s death, he points out, yet Mr Knauer has not engaged a paid cook, cleaner, gardener or decorator, still less a resident housekeeper.

26. This submission, with respect, is misconceived, on basic principles of the law of tort. If a claimant’s brand new Rolls-Royce is written off through the defendant’s negligence the damages must include its replacement value even if the claimant decides that he will change to a cheaper car or in future take public transport. The same principle applies to claims for loss of services under the Fatal Accidents Acts; and to claims for future loss, though not past loss, brought by a living claimant for her own personal injuries (Daly v General Steam Navigation Ltd [1981] 1 WLR 120). Of course in a sense the value of a lost spouse cannot be measured in money terms (see Proverbs, chapter 31, verses 10 ff.) but the law has to do the best it can.

27. Mr Poole is right to say that in predicting the future one can take account of what is known to have happened already. As Aneurin Bevan said in a different context, “why look into the crystal ball, when you can read the book?” The classic example in tort law is a Fatal Accidents Act claim where the surviving spouse has himself died by the time of trial: there will be no award for his future dependency, though there may be for that of the deceased’s children. But this does not alter the basic rule that the claimant is entitled to the value of what he has lost. Indeed, Mr Poole’s submission is contradicted by high authority: in Hay v Hughes [1975] QB 790 at 809B Lord Edmund-Davies said that “the fact that a widower decided to manage himself after the death of his wife would not disentitle him to sue for and recover damages for the pecuniary loss he had sustained”.’


In Knauer the couple were in a ‘traditional’ relationship where the deceased wife had carried out most of the domestic work and gardening. The judge allowed the claim (for losses prior to and after quantification) at the commercial rate to purchase these services allowing:
  • Housework costs at the price of purchasing through an agency. 20 hours a week at £16 an hour £16,640 a year.
  • £900 a year for gardening.
  • £600 for decorating.

This amounted to £18,140 a year.

These amounted to £88,160 for dependency up to the assessment and £329,241 thereafter.


The loss of services from the deceased is, as we have seen, a very real loss which has to be quantified and, in quantified properly, can lead to a substantial award. These losses can be considerable (see the list at 12.4 above).
(1) Take a detailed witness statement that deals with the services that were provided.
(2) Obtain estimates for the commercial costs of replacement.
(3) If the damages claim warrants it obtain a report dealing with thecommercial costs of replacement. Great care must be taken to ensure that the report deals with replacement costs and does not advocate a care or household regime. The report must be squarely based on the evidence in relation to the services that were provided.
(4) These matters can be of particular importance if one of the dependants is disabled, or has specific care needs. In these cases the commercial costs of replacement may be particularly high and specialist advice needed. See the cases considered at 9.4.2 above.


The courts have, historically, never approached the issue of valuation of loss of a mother’s or carer’s services on a strict mathematical basis. There are a number of variables. In particular the benefit received by a child from its mother varies with the age of a child. In Regan v Williamson, Watkins J considered a strictly arithmetical approach to the issue of loss of a mother, based on the hiring of a housekeeper. He observed that:

‘The simplicity of such an exercise would, in my opinion, work an injustice upon the deceased’s dependants which I think the average member of the public would describe as quite monstrous.’

He observed, at p 309, that:

‘… the word “services” has been too narrowly construed. It should, at least, include an acknowledgment that a wife and mother does not work to set hours and, still less, to rule. She is in constant attendance, save for those hours when she

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