Increase to damages in fatal accidents claims

Lee Silk looks at Knauer (Widower and Administrator of the Estate of Sally Ann Knauer) v Ministry of Justice [2016] UKSC 9 and its impact on future loss in claims under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.

In this case the Supreme Court decided that multipliers for dependency claims (financial and/or service based) under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 should be fixed from the date of trial rather than the date of death.

The facts

The Claimant, Mr Knauer, was the widower of Mrs Knauer who had died at the age of 46 from Mesothelioma which she had contracted at Guy’s Marsh Prison whilst under the employment of the Ministry of Justice.

The claim was brought under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and included claims for financial and service based dependency. Liability was initially denied but was admitted in December 2013. The claim cam before the High Court for an assessment of damages.

The issue

Whether the multiplier for future loss claims should be calculated from the date of death or the date of trial.

The Court found that it was illogical to set the multiplier at the date of death and had no hesitation in setting the multiplier from the date of trial. This was a departure from prior House of Lords authorities.

The Court’s argument against setting the multiplier at the date of death was that it often leads to under compensation. The Court explained:

“Calculating damages for loss of dependency upon the deceased from the date of death, rather than from the date of trial, means that the Claimant is suffering a discount for early receipt of the money when in fact that money will not be received until after trial.”

Comment

This decision will result in increased damages for Claimants. It brings fatal accidents claims in line with that in other personal injury claims.

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