A UK personal injury law firm has delved into the topic of civil claims following tragic on-farm accidents resulting in death. This article was written by Kathryn Hart, Partner and Head of Personal Injury at Lime Solicitors.
What is a life worth? Well it’s incalculable surely? Yet the NHS certainly rations treatments both as a cost saving measure and to save pressure on services - so there is a price.
I ask the question as I have recently been considering the risks on farms to relatively young farmworkers, who are over the age of 18, and wondering if there are any specific lessons to be learned for those employees.
The accident that caught my attention was to 24-year-old Ian Beacom, who thankfully survived a serious spleen injury after an accident in a cow crush.
He had entered the crush to administer medication to a cow when she suddenly pushed him against the wall.
With no opportunity to get out of the way, he was injured. He was aware that he should not get into the crush but did so anyway.
Harry Christian-Allan died in 2014 when the tractor and trailer he was driving crashed into a bridge. The trailer itself was badly maintained and had faulty brakes.
As a consequence of his death his family set up the Tilly Your Trailer initiative which introduced an annual 18 point inspection to ensure trailers are adequately maintained and serviced.
Poor vehicle maintenance and accidents with livestock, as well as shortcuts and unofficial adaptations are frequently the cause of farm accidents.
To this I would add inexperience which makes a person unaware of existing or potential risks and overconfidence where a young person may overestimate their own capabilities.
I started by asking what a life is worth, but the brutal answer is often very little. Ask any insurer and they will tell you, sadly, that death is cheaper than injury.
In a civil claim arising out of the death of a young person (under the age of 18), or following the death of a person aged, say, 18 or 19, the value that the law places on that person’s life is shocking and can cause, if that is possible, even more distress to their family.
There is no compensation for the actual death, in certain circumstances there is a bereavement payment.
It has just increased for the first time in seven years from £12,980 to £15,120 for deaths after 1 May 2020. Many would regard that as an insult.
It is only payable to the spouse of the deceased or to the parents of a child under the age of 18.
In many instances where the deceased has been killed more or less instantly, unless you can prove that you were in some way dependent on the deceased (and fall within very strict categories of dependents), then all that can be recovered is funeral expenses.
In my job, I am asked by families to attend at inquests to represent them.
I have, sadly, more than once explained to parents, who have experienced the devastating loss of their 19 year old son or daughter, that a civil claim will effectively be limited to funeral expenses.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps they would not want whoever caused their child’s death to pay the funeral expenses.
This article was written by Kathryn Hart, Partner and Head of Personal Injury at Lime Solicitors.