When the government makes it compulsory to have motor vehicle insurance, consideration would have been had of the far-reaching implications of a car crash. Besides the obvious possibility of hospitalisation fees and post-operative therapy, there’s also the possibility that death may occur. The death of a breadwinner following a motor vehicle accident can bring about loss that is more apparent than the damage to the car. A family that was reliant on the earnings of a sole breadwinner can have its circumstances significantly affected. Coping with the loss of a family member is tough emotionally but it can get better with a successfully instituted claim for damages.
Who May Claim
The surviving spouse and dependents have an automatic claim against a road accident fund for hospitalisation fees up to the date of death. There is also a legitimate claim for reasonable funeral expenses that fall within the fund’s regulations. This, of course, upon proof of a valid and existing marital relationship in the case of the spouse, and convincing evidence of paternity in relation to the children. In both instances, damages are meant to place the plaintiff in the position he/she would have occupied if the breadwinner had not been killed.
Even though it is standard practice for the executor of the deceased estate to institute the claim on behalf of the family, it occurs often that a spouse can claim in her own capacity, and as guardian on behalf of any children who don’t have legal standing.
The most basic formula for calculating damages involves coming up with a general estimate of the loss. Don’t be fooled, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. In reaching an estimate figure, a number of factors are considered:
1. Period of support. Here the breadwinner’s expectation of life plays a pivotal part, particularly his current health.
2. Current earnings. Account is normally taken of the deceased’s prospects of an increased earning capacity, like the chances of future
promotion for example.
3. The amount of the breadwinner’s earnings that was dedicated to supporting the family.
4. Equitable adjustments. The death of the deceased doesn’t always spell future doom for the surviving family. It’s possible that certain benefits -or disadvantages- may flow directly from his death. What quickly springs to mind is the usual life insurance. However, other contingencies may be considered, like: pension, the granting of sole ownership over the deceased’s assets, adoption, donations and, quite understandably, the marriage prospects of the surviving spouse. All these serve to reduce the amount or the length of the period claimable.
The law of damages prescribes the rules and principles applicable when a person suffers loss on account of someone else’s actions. As such, it helps to sit down with a personal injury attorney to figure out what can be claimed and against whom the claim is lodged.