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Managing claims involving fatalities

Last week, we had a client calling us as the someone had been injured at their site after slipping and falling and subsequently died in hospital. The Police had contacted them wanting copies of incident reports and CCTV. One of the worst situations is when someone dies at our client’s property – unfortunately we have seen a few of these involving freak accidents from falls, faulty machinery, to pre-existing injuries such as heart disease to drownings in swimming pools.


We strongly recommend sending flowers and a card as an expression of sympathy goes a long way and is not to be construed by the tort legislation to be an admission of liability. Remember that documentation is discoverable up until litigation may be the dominant purpose. So be careful with what is put in emails or statements and ensure you keep any CCTV safe.


In this case – the Police was investigating for a coronial enquiry. We provided the incident report and CCTV which showed no liability on behalf of our client. This was lucky from a public liability perspective as below are the type of claims that may transpire:

  • Potential dependency claims.
  • Potential nervous shock claims.
  • Potential parties: owners, managers, occupiers, security, designers, builders, maintenance, cleaners.


For loss of dependency / wrongful death claims – the family can claim for:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Past loss such as loss of income from the date of the death to the date of the settlement less the deceased’s living expenses.
  • Future loss of earnings until retirement less deceased living expenses
  • The value of past services such as the value of gratuitous services if he or she had not died.


Always be co-operative with the Police and if death is work related then co-operate with inspectors. You may also want to consider providing counselling for any staff who may have been traumatised by the experience.

Written by Marianne Emerson


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