Fatal accidents at work are all too common with farming and the construction industries being two of the industries with the worst record. These accidents are devastating for loved ones and also cause financial difficulties for dependants of the deceased particularly if the deceased was the 'breadwinner' of the family. You never think it is going to happen to your loved one. If it does, not only is it devastating to lose someone you love, but the legal processes which then occur can be bewildering. At this time you need a friendly and sympathetic ear who can listen to you as well as explain in clear terms what these legal processes are.
We are here to help as our team of specialist personal injury solicitors deal with many claims involving fatal accidents at work.
Health and Safety Executive and Police Investigations
There will be an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and sometimes also the police. These investigations can often take weeks if not months. The HSE will bring in to play their expertise to try to gather and analyse the evidence. This can take time.
Normally an inquest will be opened and adjourned by the coroner fairly quickly with identification of the body and approval of the release of the body the only issues that can be dealt with at that early stage. Weeks if not months later the inquest will resume with evidence presented to the coroner. Any party with a legitimate interest in the case may be represented. The insurance companies for any parties involved will often instruct lawyers to attend.
We can represent you at the hearing. At the hearing questions can be put to witnesses to try to get to the truth of what happened. Although witnesses can be questioned, the coroner will not allow the 'grilling' of witnesses. No one is on trial - the hearing is intended to be a search for the truth but the purpose of the hearing is limited. To try to establish how someone died. If anyone such as the deceased's employer or another party is facing the possibility of criminal charges, he or she will not be obliged to answer questions which might incriminate him or her. The inquest is likely to be the first opportunity to find out what happened. Documents such as photographs, sketch plans and witness statements are likely to be available for the first time - though it is often the case that the documents are only made available minutes before the hearing starts.
If you wish to be represented at a coroner's inquest please give us a call.
The HSE may decide to bring criminal charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act. The family are not deemed to be a party in the proceedings and are therefore not allowed to be represented at the hearing. However, the family might be asked to make an impact statement to the court before sentencing. This may or may not be something you feel you want to do. Where there is a criminal trial, even though you cannot be represented, you can have a lawyer sitting in the courtroom to take a note of the proceedings. It is likely to be important to note carefully what witnesses say about how the accident happened.
Making a Civil Claim
If it can be proved on the balance of probabilities that the accident was caused by the negligence or breach of statutory duty of another party, then a claim can be made.
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 dependants of the deceased such as a husband or wife or children can make a claim. Other relatives who were dependent on the deceased such as an elderly parent may also be able to claim.
Depending on the circumstances a claim can be made for:
Our team of specialist Fatal Work Accident solicitors have won many claims for fatal work accidents. They can often pursue your claim for compensation on a no win no fee basis. They will advise you on the merits of your case. They will gather the evidence and advise you on how best to put your case forward. They will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Your case will be handled with proper sensitivity. You will be advised on the procedures involved following the death of your loved one, including the HSE investigation, inquest and any criminal prosecutions. You will be advised on what civil claims you may be able to make.
We know that nothing we do will turn back the clock. We hope that we will be able to help you through this most traumatic time for you and your family.