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Fatal accident claims

The loss of a loved one is never easy. But when their death is early, sudden and likely the result of someone else’s negligence it is understandably devastating.

What can cause even more anguish are the questions that follow.

What actually happened? - How did it happen? - Why did it happen? - Whose fault was it? - Why them? - Who else has been affected? - Why does no one answer me? - How can I make it right?

No matter how it happened, whether a fatal car accident, during the course of someone’s work, in Scotland or abroad or other circumstance we know you’ll have many questions.

Some of these we can answer, others we can try and find an answer to. But more importantly, Digby Brown can hold those responsible to account, helping get you the answers you deserve.

What next?

Most people understandably don’t know that a fatal accident is treated as a civil compensation claim and although there may be a criminal prosecution or a fatal accident inquiry (FAI), a civil claim also needs to be utilised to properly investigate all the circumstances surrounding the incident.

We know it’s not just about the compensation or damages award

It is difficult to explain on a page, on a website, about why you should make a compensation claim for when you lose a close family member.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, and everyone who finds themselves in this position will have a completely different viewpoint. We do understand that, and please note that when you speak to us we will listen to what you are trying to achieve in this process.

However, for many people losing a loved one has to be about financial security.  If the family depended on their salary and/or depended on them to look after other family members then there is a practical need to secure rightful damages to put food on the table and a roof over your head. It is about easing the financial pressures on families that follow their loss.

Fatal accidents have always been compensated for, if someone has died because they were asked to do something dangerous or because of the negligence of others. Going back hundreds of years families across Scotland and beyond have been compensated for their loss.

In the main, this would surround men going off to fight in wars or those who carried out dangerous jobs. Your family would have been taken care of. Modern personal injury legislation has been derived through the years of this thinking.

The process is ultimately about securing an award for each family member eligible, but the money is the outcome, the process for many secures the answers they need.

Many, many, many families just want answers and if there are no criminal proceedings or the Crown has chosen not to conduct a Fatal Accident Inquiry, then the only way to try find some answers is through this process.

We know many families who have been awarded damages at the conclusion of the case, have given it to charity or used the money to put smiles back on children’s faces.

Who could/should make a fatal accident claim?

The law in Scotland is clear about what it defines as someone who is eligible to make a claim for the loss of a family member.

The law is also clear that once a claims process is completed, then the matter is concluded, so any family member who has chosen not to make a claim or not known that they could or should make a claim, cannot now re-open the case.

It is incumbent on the solicitor who is dealing with the claim to try and find all family members and offer them the opportunity to be part of the process.

Who can make a claim?

  • A cohabitee, spouse or civil partner
  • Parents, including step-parents
  • Children including step-children
  • Brothers and sisters including step-siblings
  • Grandparents and grandchildren including step-grandparents/grandchildren

Fatal accident claims process

Each person, each family, each accident and each loss felt is different. This also means each fatal accident claim is different. 

When the time is right for you and your family to consider your options we will talk – and listen – so you have all the facts and information relevant to your needs.

This way you can understand our investigation process, how your claim is valued, how our no win, no fee funding works and what you can expect going forwards.

Statements – the first thing we will do is simply talk to you.  Find out if we can help and then find out what happened.  In due course we will need to take statements from all the family members who wish to make a claim to build up a picture of their relationship to the deceased party.

Funding the case – Digby Brown uses a funding model called Compensate. We will explain in detail how this works when we talk to you. In brief, Compensate pays for all the costs associated with the case: all the investigations, expert witnesses, your solicitor’s time – everything.

It works on a no win, no fee model and although this sounds glib, it’s the easiest way of explaining that all the upfront costs you’d otherwise need to pay for to prepare a case are taken care of.

If the case does go to court, it is risk free, the costs of running the case a borne by the losing side. If that is Digby Brown, Compensate bears that cost and takes that risk.

We ask for a success fee of the damages recovered to protect against future losses in other cases. Again, we will explain this fully and tell you at the start of the percentage of your claim that we will ask for – it will be never more than 20%.

Intimating the claim – Once we’ve established what has happened and who we believe to be at fault we inform the other side (usually an insurance firm representing the defending party) that we are intimating a claim on your behalf. This starts the process of dialogue between both sides.

The incident – we will obtain the required incident reports. It may be from police, employers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or other relevant bodies. We will also gather witness statements and other key data relevant to the circumstances of the accident.

Investigation – we will consult with relevant bodies to fully understand the incident.  We need to understand what happened, what went wrong and why.  From this we can produce the evidence which identifies who was at fault and therefore to blame.

Financial losses – we gather evidence of the financial losses your family faces as a result of the loss of your loved one such as lost earnings, lost pension or lost services (such as if the deceased regularly helped you or other family members with things like chores or tasks). If you have suffered the loss of a spouse then maybe you’ve had to give up your job to look after children so this will also be taken into account.

Agreement on liability – We discuss whether the other side accepts fault.

Agreement on quantum (the amount of damages sought) – We discuss whether the insurer accepts our valuation of the damages.

Settlement – If liability and quantum are agreed then the case is settled. If agreement cannot be reached on either point then we may consider taking the case to court. However this is rare as most cases settle out of court (even if a court action is raised).

What our clients say about us

We put our clients at the centre of everything we do and are committed to providing the very best service. The hundreds of five star reviews we have received on Trustpilot is a reflection of this approach.

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Supporting you beyond fatal accident compensation

Criminal trials

It is not uncommon for criminal cases to be live at the same time you consider a fatal injury claim. For example, if your loved one died in a car crash and the driver of the other vehicle was charged and is still waiting to go to court.

A civil case and a criminal case are two different things. They have different processes, relate to different laws and regulations and require different burdens of proof.

Our fatal accident solicitors are able to investigate the circumstances of the accident independently and their expertise and reputation is so formidable that in many cases your family can actually secure a settlement without the need to wait for the outcome of a criminal trial.

This means you do not need to wait for a criminal trial to be finished before you come to us for help and you can still make a claim even if the negligent party was not convicted.

Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs)

Sometimes fatal accidents can be so serious it has wider implications for public safety. In these circumstances the authorities might decide to conduct a fatal accident inquiry (FAI).

These hearings are not designed to attribute blame. They are designed to identify failings or faults in a system of work. After hearing evidence during the FAI a judge or sheriff may then make recommendations to improve safety standards or working processes to prevent future incidents.

If your fatal accident compensation claim is linked to an incident at the centre of an FAI then Digby Brown will support you through this. We will provide expert, background guidance to help you understand the process and what it means for you and your case (if it hasn’t already settled).

Managing the media

The significant nature of fatal accidents often result in media attention. However we know dealing with journalists can be difficult – especially at an already-difficult time. This is why we offer specialist media management advice to clients completely free as part of our service.

There is no blanket policy on media engagement. Some clients actively wish to engage with media in the hope of raising awareness or inspiring change, while others prefer to have their privacy respected. There is no right or wrong approach. Each strategy is tailored to suit individual needs.

You have a right to speak, a right to a private life and a right to choose – we just want to make sure you retain control and can make a choice on the right terms and not on the terms of journalists.

Some firms will jump on any news opportunity to promote themselves regardless of what it means for clients. Digby Brown does not do this. Your welfare and the integrity of your case come first. And we never make media decisions without consulting you and never speak on your behalf without prior consent.

Our reputation in helping families with fatal accident claims

As explained earlier a fatal accident case actually falls under personal injury law – and this is an area Digby Brown is already known for.

For nearly 15 years Digby Brown has been top ranked for personal injury work by the two biggest legal directories in the world – Chambers & Partners and The Legal 500. They deliver independent guidance and reviews to the public on who provides the best legal service.

Digby Brown has also been awarded Law Firm of the Year in Scotland for four out of the last five years (2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019), based on our results, client appraisals and even appraisals from other firms. We have also received five top Community Contribution awards in the last six years.

On top of this Digby Brown being one of the most reviewed and highest-rated legal firms in Scotland on Trustpilot.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) is the UK’s leading body of personal injury solicitors, that gives people access to information on which lawyer or firm will offer the best service – especially if it relates to a specialist issue such acquired brain injuries (ABI) or spinal cord injuries. APIL accredits nearly 50 personal injury lawyers in Scotland and around half of all of these work at Digby Brown.

We have the expertise, resources, industry recognition and public trust to settle even the most complex of cases.

We will always act in your interests, be on hand to guide you using our extensive legal experience and help you in any we can with the many other challenges of dealing with the loss of a loved one.

We are always sorry to hear about a tragic loss but we are always here to help if it does happen.

Next step

Simply get in touch. We know for many families it might be easier to put in an enquiry rather than speak to someone initially directly on the phone.

In these circumstances, if we know you are enquiring about a sudden death then we will immediately ask one of our Partners to get in touch. We know how difficult this is and how much this matters.

0333 200 5926

Monday to Friday: 8am - 8pm 

Saturday and Sunday: 12pm - 4pm

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