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What is a dependency claim and how does it work?

The law for sometime has allowed a person who has had a family member pass away as a result of a car accident (or workplace accident or any other type of accident) that was caused by someone else’s wrong doing, to recover compensation for the loss that they have sustained because that person who died is no longer around to provide financial or domestic services.

For example, a child aged 8 who loses both his parents in a car accident caused by a drink driver, is entitled to claim for the lost time that his parents would have cooked his dinner, driven him to school, purchased his clothes and paid his school fees.

Most people would agree, this seems like a reasonable scenario. After all, who is going to look after the young boy now that his parents have gone?

Also, where would he live?  He is too young to go and get a job and pay rent on his own. No doubt he will likely end up living with an extended family member or he will become a foster child.

Nonetheless, his parents may have had grand plans to send him to an expensive private school and at the time of the accident, he may have attended weekly swimming lessons, piano lessons and was being tutored for English and math.

What happens to this child now that his parents are not around to pay for his education and upbringing?

Firstly, once the appropriate respondent is identified and a claim is lodged (assuming it satisfies all the prerequisites for an actual claim), the child by his litigation guardian or next friend may pursue what is commonly known as a Lord Campbell’s Action for loss of dependency.

This type of claim allows a claimant to seek two (2) types of compensation, namely the loss of financial benefits and loss of domestic services.

What do we mean by financial benefits???

Well, if you can imagine that an 8 year old is largely dependent upon his parents for the following (just to name a few):

  1. food and clothes
  2. education /schooling
  3. extracurricular activities such as sport, music and hobbies
  4. a home to live in
  5. toys to play with
  6. a bag to carry to school
  7. medical expenses
  8. holidays or trips away
  9. pocket money.

It is likely that whilst the 8 year old is a minor (under the age of 18), his parents will almost exclusively fund these items.  As he gets older, he might attend university or get an apprenticeship, find a partner and move out of home sometime between the age of 18 and 25.

Until that time comes (which is a BIG GUESS), he will be entitled to claim a sum of money, which reflects a proportion of the income that his parents might have earned in the years ahead.

The calculation itself is quite complex and often causes headaches for even the most learned legal minds (judges included).  However in essence; the sum is designed to compensate the child for losing the money that his parents would have spent on him towards his existence, had they not died.

So what then for the Domestic Services?

Without putting a too simplistic version upon this type of compensation, it essentially mirrors the last type, accept that it includes those tasks that his parents actually performed, for example:

  1. driving him to school;
  2. taking him on holidays
  3. cooking his dinner
  4. reading his homework with him
  5. cleaning his clothes and bed sheets
  6. caring for him when he was sick

The above tasks can be added together to amount to a number of hours each week that the child would have received the assistance.

Again, as he gets older, the level of assistance will reduce until, one day, he is independent.

But until that time, he is entitled to claim the loss of his parent’s domestic assistance as a lump sum compensation payment.

But that’s not all there is to it…

Importantly, there can only be one (1) Lord Campbell’s Action for loss of dependency for all dependants of a deceased person.  For example, only one claim can be made whether there is 1 child or 6 children to a claim.

The reason for this is due to the compensation being calculated as a portion of the deceased persons time and income.

Essentially, if a parent cooks dinner for 1 hour for 6 children, the children arguably cannot claim 1 hour of that parent’s service exclusively – that service was shared between 6 people.

Also, if a parent earns $1,000 a week, and after all expenses (rent, bills etc) they have $300 left over, they would only have the capacity to spend $300 on 1, 2, 3 or 4 children as a maximum.

As such, $300 in a family of 4 would allow each dependant $75 each whereas in a 2 child family that same $300 would allow each dependant up to $150 each.

What if the dependant is not a child???

Finally, the law does not limit these claims to children (although they are the most likely candidates).

Spouses who have lost their partners, elderly parents who are cared for by their younger adult children, and adults with disabilities or incapacities who receive care from their parents are all considered dependants and are eligible to make a claim if the person they are dependent upon is taken away from them.

young girl thinking wiht light behind her

Our General Advice Waiver…

Remember, the above information applies generally to this area of law and is designed to be an outline – it is not legal advice. As such, actual legal advice should be obtained for any parties wishing to bring any claim for dependency either for themself or on behalf of another person.

So if you are interested in receiving any advice for matters relating to dependency claims (Lord Campbell Actions), motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, or any other type of claim for compensation or loss, please contact us on 3281 2677, shoot us an email at mail@fmlaw.com.au or head to our website at www.fmlaw.com.aufor more information.

Ask for our Personal Injury Lawyer, Joshua Sheaffe.

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