Death and Fatal Accident Claims

"They were supportive and sensitive to what we were going through – we built a very good relationship with the [Kingsley Napley] team." Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession 2018

When someone dies as a result of personal injury or medical negligence, their Estate and dependents (their partner, children or other dependent relatives) are usually entitled to compensation.

We are experienced in representing families who have lost a loved one in an accident caused by someone else or as a result of medical negligence.  Our specialist expertise is recognised by the legal directories Legal 500 and Chambers UK.

We will support you through the process of bringing a claim, to enable you and your family to obtain compensation.  Compensation can be particularly important if the deceased had contributed financially to the household or provided practical care and assistance to children or dependent relatives.

If you have lost someone through an accident or are concerned that negligent medical treatment may have led to their death, please contact us to discuss how we can help.

Situations in which we often assist

We act for the families of people who have died in many different circumstances.  Some of the situations which may give rise to a claim include:

  • Road traffic accidents
  • Accidents which occur in the workplace or in other places outside the home
  • Accidents which occur on organised trips
  • Death caused by negligent medical treatment
  • Death caused by the failure to give medical treatment
  • Suicide of someone under psychiatric care

Your claim

Every case is investigated by our specialist lawyers, led by a partner. This typically involves working with experts (such as accident investigators, medical specialists and forensic accountants) to understand how your loved one died and the amount of compensation that can be claimed for their dependants.

For further information about compensation we have secured for families who have lost loved ones, see cases we have acted in.


Is there a time limit for bringing a claim relating to someone’s death?

There are strict time limits for bringing a negligence claim for injury and death in England and Wales.  

The usual rule is that a claim must be formally started at Court within three years from the date of death or from the ‘date of knowledge’ (if that is later).

It takes time to investigate a claim, so you should contact us as soon as possible.


Who can bring the claim?

The claim can be brought by the Executor(s) of the deceased’s  Estate. A dependant of the deceased can bring the claim instead, if the Executor(s) do not begin the claim within six months of the death.

A 'dependent' is a wide term and may include:

  • Spouse or civil partner
  • Long-term cohabiting partner
  • Children and stepchildren
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Aunts and uncles


What is the process for bringing a claim?

We start by obtaining evidence. This may include medical records, accident reports, health and safety assessments, witness statements and expert evidence. These will be used to prove that the death was caused by negligence. 

We also calculate the amount of compensation that can be claimed.  We then try to reach a financial settlement with the Defendant (the individual or organisation legally responsible) or their insurer. 

In some cases settlement is agreed at an early stage. In other circumstances, it may be necessary to begin Court proceedings.

For further information on this process, read Our Guide to Making a Claim.


Will the case be decided by the Court?

Probably not. The vast majority of fatal accident and medical negligence claims are not decided by the Court.

Successful claims are usually resolved by agreement of a settlement either before or during formal Court proceedings. 

Occasionally, the Court will decide a case, if it cannot be resolved any other way.


How is the amount of compensation decided?

The amount that can be claimed depends upon the individual circumstances of the person who died. It may include compensation for:

  • Financial dependency (e.g. where the deceased would have provided financial support to the household or dependent relatives)
  • ‘Services’ dependency (e.g. where the deceased would have provided care or practical assistance to dependent relatives.  For example, this might include caring for children, looking after a disabled partner or supporting an elderly parent)
  • Bereavement damages (under the current law this can only be claimed by the deceased’s spouse, civil partner, or long-term co-habiting partner; unless the person who died was a child (under the age of 18). In which case bereavement damages can be claimed by the child’s parents
  • Funeral expenses
  • Losses incurred by the deceased between the date of injury and the date of death (if death did not occur immediately)


How does an Inquest relate to bringing a claim?

An Inquest is a hearing held by a Coroner to establish the facts of the deceased’s death. The purpose of an Inquest is not to place blame on any individual or organisation. In some circumstances; however, a Coroner may give a report identifying changes which should be made to prevent a similar thing happening in future.

An Inquest cannot provide financial recompense for loved ones. To seek compensation, it is necessary to bring a civil claim.

We sometimes act for families in connection with an Inquest, as well as in their (separate) claim for compensation.


How do I access a deceased person’s medical records?

We will usually review a deceased’s person’s medical records as part of our investigation of the claim. This is particularly important where the person’s death may have been caused by medical negligence.

Our clients sometimes wish to obtain copies of their loved one’s medical records before deciding whether to begin a claim.  Please see our Guide to Accessing Medical Records for further information on how to request records yourself.


Other organisations and resources that may help



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