Losing a partner in an accident – how claims work
4 Min Read
It is a bittersweet feeling when settling a claim following a fatal accident. It is good to know that I have helped to provide the bereaved family with some financial security for the future, but it is always heart-rending to have been involved in a tragic case.
Settling a motorbike accident claim
Sadly, Lucy lost her partner Anthony in 2018 when he was killed in a local road traffic accident while riding his motorbike. Anthony was pulling away from traffic lights when a car in front of him, which had previously moved into the filter lane to turn right, moved back into his path when the driver changed her mind. As is often the case, there were allegations that Anthony was speeding. However, I believed the driver was liable for the accident for failing to check her mirrors properly before trying to change lanes.
In this case the car driver was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention. However, she was not convicted due to issues with the accident reconstruction report prepared by the Police. In cases involving a fatality, we often rely upon an accident reconstruction report to piece together what happened from physical evidence such as skid marks, vehicle damage etc, as well as witness evidence. An engineer will review all of the evidence, make calculations of time and distances, sight lines and speeds and prepare a report setting out the most likely sequence of events.
What happens when both parties were at fault?
As expected, the car driver’s insurance company disputed liability for the accident. In particular they relied on the evidence of another motorcyclist who was also pulling away from the traffic lights, who told the Police that Anthony was exceeding the speed limit by a considerable amount. Even so, this was a straight road with good visibility and had the driver checked properly she should have been able to see Anthony on his motorcycle. When the claim was ultimately settled it was on the basis of a split liability which meant that the damages were reduced by approximately one-third to allow for the fact that Anthony was probably exceeding the speed limit.
Claiming for the death of a partner when you are not married
As Lucy and Anthony were not married, she needed to prove that she met the criteria for bringing a claim as a dependent, which meant that she had to show that they had been cohabiting for 2 years immediately up to the date of the accident. In this particular case the couple had moved around a fair bit living in different rental properties, and for some of the time they lived with Lucy’s parents. This meant that not all of their official paperwork consistently showed the right addresses, and that did cause delays in settling the claim as the car driver’s insurance company needed to be satisfied that the criteria had been met. I needed to take statements from the couple’s family members and go through lots of their paperwork to present a persuasive case to the insurance company.
There was a further complication regarding Lucy’s son who her partner had treated as his own, since they started living together when he was just a baby. Legally her son was not considered to be a dependent of Anthony, even though he did financially support them both.
With the case now over, I hope that Lucy and her young son will be able to move forward with their lives. Bringing a claim and dealing with litigation can be stressful for anybody, but when the loss of a loved one is at the heart of the case, it is so much harder and I will always try to take as much of the burden of that away from my client as possible.