It is simply not possible to achieve a financial award which will ever truly compensate for the loss of a loved one. Damages awarded in claims arising out of the death of a close family member are difficult and emotional cases to value.
When someone dies as a result of negligence, members of the deceased's immediate family are entitled to receive compensation/damages for the loss of the loved one.
Financial awards may include compensation for distress and anxiety endured by the relative in contemplation of the suffering of the deceased before they died, the grief and sorrow of the relative caused by the person's death and the loss of benefit that the relative might have been expected to have from the society and guidance of the deceased if they had not died. Awards may also be made to certain relatives for the loss of financial support.
Solicitors will be familiar with case law dealing with awards of damages in fatal cases during the early years of this century. Awards made by judges sitting alone often differed greatly from awards made by civil juries but it is, perhaps, true to say that more recent case law suggests that the gap is becoming less.
Some awards made since 2000:
Shahar -v- British Aerospace Flying College, 2003, SC 540
£20,000 each awarded to a mother and a father for the loss of their 19 year old only son.
McLean -v- W Denny 2004 SC 656
£28,000 awarded to a wife aged 71 in respect of the loss of her 75 year old husband.
This case involved mesothelioma and the court suggested that in an ordinary,
i.e. non-mesothelioma case, an award of £25,000 might be appropriate.
Young -v- Advocate General for Scotland 2011 Rep LR 39 - Jury award
£90,000 awarded to a 54 year old parent of a 21 year old child.
Dicketts -v- Advocate General for Scotland 2011 Rep LR 138 - Jury award
£98,000 to each parent aged 62 and 66 for the loss of their 27 year old child.
Swarbrick -v- Advocate General for Scotland 2011 Rep LR 40 - Jury award
£100,000 awarded to parent aged 53 for the loss of a 28 year old child.
Bellingham -v- Todd 2011 SLT 1124
£50,000 awarded to wife of a 40 year old man.
£25,000 awarded to each young child of the deceased.
£15,000 awarded to adult son (from previous relationship).
£15,000 awarded to the parents of the deceased.
£10,000 awarded to the brother of the deceased.
Wolff -v- J Moulds 2012 SLT 231
This was another mesothelioma case.
£50,000 awarded to wife of a 67 year old man.
£15,000 to £18,000 awarded to three adult children of deceased.
£6,500 awarded to granddaughter of the deceased.
Hamilton & Thomson -v- Ferguson Transport Limited 2012 SC 486
£120,000 awarded to teenage daughter of woman killed aged 53.
£90,000 awarded to father of 21 year old child.
Kelly -v- USC Limited 2012 REPLB 107 - Jury award
Another mesothelioma case.
£40,000 awarded to wife of an 82 year old man.
£25,000 awarded to adult children of the deceased.
£8,000 awarded to brother of the deceased.
£8,000 awarded to 14 year old grandchildren of the deceased.
£4,000 awarded to 7 year old grandchild of the deceased.
£1,500 awarded to 2 year old grandchild of the deceased.
McGee -v- R J K Building Services 2013 SLT428
£80,000 awarded to wife of a 71 year old man.
£35,000 awarded to two adult daughters with very close relationship.
£27,500 awarded to son with less close relationship.
£20,000 awarded to 9 year old granddaughter with particularly close relationship.
£25,000 awarded to 17 year old grandson.
£12,000 awarded to two granddaughters aged 13 and 10.
Ryder -v- Highland Council 2013 SLT847
£40,000 would have been awarded to 17 year old son in relation to death of mother aged 36, had he succeeded on the merits of the case.
Currie -v- Esure Services Limited 2014 CS0H34
£42,000 awarded to each parent of deceased son aged 26.
£22,500 awarded to older brother of deceased.
Drummond Miller has recently settled a fatal claim in connection with which a 60 year old man died and damages of £37,000 were paid to each of the three adult children in their 30s and an award of £12,500 was made to a sibling of the deceased.
Advising clients on the level of damages they might recover in fatal claims remains difficult. There are currently a number of cases awaiting judicial determination before the Court of Session which may lend further guidance once the judgments are available.