Fatal Accident Claims – A change in the Law

3rd Mar 2016

On the 24th February 2016 the Supreme Court handed down judgement in the case of Knauer (Widower and Administrator of the Estate of Sally Ann Knauer) (Appellant) v Ministry of Justice (Respondent) [2016] UKSC 9. Following an earlier article, Mark Hambling of Rogers & Norton had commented upon how Personal Injury lawyers and in particular those specialising in dealing with claims involving fatalities, had been awaiting this judgement following the appeal being leap frogged to the Supreme Court from the High Court, as it was seeking to change the law which had been previously set out in two cases of Cookson V Knowles 1979 and Graham v Dodds 1983.

Road traffic accident

The seven justices sitting in the Supreme Court have overturned the rules set out in the above cases and put in place a new method for calculating damages in fatal accident cases. The important effect of this decision is that when calculating damages for the loss of a deceased income, or services they would have provided, the court will now calculate the multiplier to reflect the loss into the future from the date of trial and not the death. The effect of this is that by treating all losses up to the trial as having already occurred and by only calculating future losses from the date of the trial when the damages are being assessed, the value of a dependency claim is likely to be higher and, as was acknowledged by the justices, ensures a fairer outcome to the parties.

In giving their judgement, the Justices accepted that the modern calculation of damages in fatal accident cases has become more sophisticated. By applying the approach approved in this case, the courts and the lawyers advising the parties can more accurately predict what may have happened but for the death and therefore more fairly value the damages which should be awarded.

The decision in this case further highlights the need for those dependants who unfortunately lose a loved one to ensure they receive expert advice on the case they wish to advance and the current position of the law in so far as it relates to their specific dependency claim, given the sophisticated nature of calculating any damages award.

Mark Hambling is a director in Rogers & Norton’s Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence department and a senior litigator accredited by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. Rogers & Norton offer a free initial discussion on any Personal Injury or Clinical Negligence enquiry.

Contact Mark Hambling on 01603 675637 or email mark.hambling@rogers-norton.co.uk.