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Who can claim when a loved one dies?

Who can claim when a loved one dies?

The death of a spouse, parent or child due to negligence is understandably one of the most traumatic losses a person can experience.  Usually the victim’s family will seek answers and demand that justice be done and for the responsible person to be prosecuted.

It is important to remember that there is a difference between a criminal case and a civil claim. In the event of the death of a family member people often ask whether they have a civil claim for compensation.

Civil litigation in the context of negligence refers to legal proceedings against other persons for compensation or to enforce a certain legal right. Criminal litigation, on the other hand, deals with legal proceedings when someone has broken the law. He/she is then charged, prosecuted, and punished for committing a crime.

You can read more about the differences in our article Different courts and types of cases

A civil claim has as its main purpose the recovery of compensation but can be a helpful tool in bringing the family of the deceased some closure and support following this difficult time. If you have a family member whose life was lost in a road accident or due to medical negligence, you may be able to claim for financial compensation for your loss.

The key is that the claim is not that of the deceased person, but of the person who has suffered the loss.

Who can claim?

In South African law the person who has suffered the loss may claim. The requirement is that the person must prove in what way the death has resulted in loss. This is usually a person who was financially dependent or suffered emotional trauma as a result of the death.

See also our article – Frequently asked question: Can I claim for the death of my baby?

 What can be claimed?

  • Loss of financial support
    • If you were a dependent of the deceased, you can claim for compensation to cover the loss of support that was provided by the deceased as a breadwinner or income provider to the family.
  • Funeral and medical expenses
    • A claim for reasonable compensation for the costs of the funeral may also be made. If costs were incurred for medical care before the death, this may also be included by the person or estate who incurred the expenses.
  • Emotional damage
    • Pain and suffering, also referred to as general damages, includes compensation for the trauma and emotional damage experienced by the family of the deceased. It is necessary to prove that the death resulted in a recognised psychiatric condition requiring professional treatment. Compensation is thus not awarded for “normal” grief experienced by those left behind.

What is needed to prove a claim?

To make such a claim, you need to provide sufficient information such as your relationship to the deceased and on what basis you have a right to be compensated.

Important documents that the court would consider includes the identity document of the deceased, a death certificate or post mortem report determining the cause of death, unabridged birth certificates reflecting the names of parents, proof of earnings or payslips of all involved parties, proof of reasonable funeral expenses and documentary proof of marriage (if the claim is being made by a spouse).

If a claim for emotional damage is made, a report by a medical professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, would be necessary to show in what way the death has resulted in a recognised psychiatric condition requiring treatment.

Professional attorneys at your service

At Paul du Plessis Attorneys our aim is to make the process of claiming against the RAF or any other negligent person smoother and less stressful, as we work on a no win – no fee basis. For legal support when you need to claim following the death of a loved one, contact Paul du Plessis Attorneys through our website, email paul@pauldup.co.za or phone at 012 809 1588.