Under the Civil Liability Amendment Act dependants are set out as follows:
- Half brother
- Half sister
- Civil partners
- A person who is not married to the deceased but who, until the date of the deceased’s death, had been living with the deceased as husband and wife for a continuous period of not less than three years.
- A person to whom the deceased was married but the marriage was dissolved before the date of death of the deceased.
In order to qualify as a dependant, the person must have suffered financial loss or mental distress as a result of the death of the deceased. While there may be many dependants of the deceased it must be remembered that only one person can bring a fatal injury claim on behalf of all of the dependants and it is therefore vitally important to have all details of the statutory dependants before initiating a claim.
A statutory dependant that was not financially dependent on the deceased can waive their rights to be included in the fatal injury action. The figure of €35,000, if awarded, is to be split between all dependants. As stated earlier, it must be remembered that this is not an attempt to compensate for the loss of a loved one; it is merely an acknowledgement of grief. It should also be noted that there is no cap on the damages that can be recovered for financial loss or funeral & other expenses.
Although the figure allowed for mental distress is very low, it must be distinguished from a separate cause of action that can be brought for nervous shock. This cause of action is not included in the Fatal Injury Summons and instead is a standalone action brought by way of a Personal Injury Summons. In a fatal injury action only one person can bring the claim on behalf of all dependants; this is not the case where a separate cause of action arises for nervous shock.