In certain circumstances where a person dies as a result of the wrongful act of another an action can be pursued against that wrongdoer.
This type of action is commonly known as a Fatal Injury action and has a statutory basis in Part IV of the Civil liability Act, 1961 (‘the 1961 Act’). It is a form of class action in that only one action may be brought against the same person in respect of the death and it must be brought on behalf of all the deceased’s dependants.
What compensation is recoverable?
A dependant is only entitled to make a claim in a fatal injury action if they have suffered financial loss or mental distress as a result of the deceased’s death. The heads of damages are pecuniary loss suffered as a result of the deceased’s death, damages for mental distress as a result of the death (otherwise known as solatium) and funeral and other expenses actually incurred as a result of the death.
The plaintiff (claimant) can claim reasonable compensation on behalf of each dependant for mental distress suffered by each of them as a result of the death subject, until recently, to a collective limit on such damages of €25,395. This limit on the total of damages for mental distress which can be awarded in any single Fatal Injury action applies regardless of the number of dependants claiming for mental distress. It had been increased twice since the inception of the Civil Liability Act, 1961 to a figure of €25,395. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may vary this amount by order where the Minister considers it appropriate, having regard to changes in the value of money generally in the State.
CIVIL LIABILITY ACT 1961 (SECTION 49) ORDER 2014
With effect from the 11th January 2014 the Solatium is increased to €35,000.00 under S.I. No.6 of 2014. This new limit for Solatium reflects the increase in the CPI since the limit was last modified in 1996.
The Solatium awarded in a Fatal Injury Claim is often deemed to be derisory by the surviving dependents as it is believed that this is the value that has been placed on the deceased`s life. This is not the case; although every legal advisor will have experience of explaining to the dependants of the deceased that this sum of money is only a token payment which will never compensate for the loss of their loved one.