Other issues raised in fatal claims
I have spent a number of years working with clients who have sustained life-changing brain injuries. These cases are always hugely rewarding when you see the impact immediate needs assessments can have on a client’s rehabilitation programme, let alone interim payments and final settlements. However, while there are many moments to celebrate during the lifetime of a case, there are occasions when the worst thing happens and a client passes away.
There are a number of legal issues that must be considered and steps that must be taken for the client’s ‘estate’ and/or dependants to continue with the case. Some of these steps include obtaining a Grant of Probate or letters of administration (if there is no Will) and amending the contractual funding agreement you have in place so that this is now with the Executor of the client’s estate or their Dependants.
However, there have been a number of other issues that I have had to consider in the past where my clients have passed away. These have included:
- The family being upset that a Coroner’s post-mortem examination was carried out, as they felt it was against their religious views. In this particular case, a Muslim family found their grief compounded, as they thought the post mortem would have desecrated their father’s body and that searching for a cause of death was to question that the death was a part of their God’s plan. After some counselling and guidance from Islamic Scholars, they accepted that the guiding principles of their religion included the maintenance of life and of intellect. As their father’s death, according to them, was God’s plan then an autopsy would assist them and others in understanding the disease process and learning from it.
- Family disputes as to where their loved one should be buried and asking me for legal advice on this. This was another Muslim family that could not agree on where their sister should be buried. Followers of the Islamic faith believe that a burial should take place as soon as possible to ensure the dignity and respect of the dead, as well as for their living relatives. My (deceased) client’s siblings wanted her buried in their local Cemetery, however her parents wanted her to be buried in Morocco so that she could be laid to rest near her grandparents and where they eventually wanted their own bodies to be buried.
- A wife of a (deceased) client unwilling to leave her house for a meeting with me following the death of her husband. I initially assumed that this was because she was still grieving, but it later became apparent after a number of cancelled meetings that she did not want to leave her house for a set number of days following his death. The wife was informed by her family that she should stay at home for a specific period of 4 months and 10 days and that in Islam this was called Iddah e. a period of waiting following the death of a husband during which time she could not marry another person. One of the reasons behind this was to establish whether or not she was pregnant, and if she was, and her late husband was the father of the baby then this would have impacted on the distribution of his assets following his death. My client eventually decided that her family were applying a very literal interpretation of Iddah and that she could leave her house before the period ended, as long as she didn’t marry anyone during one of her daily trips to the local grocery store!
Whilst only some of these issues fall within the remit of a personal injury Solicitor, I have realised that issues like these are sometimes the main and only concern for grieving families and that the personal injury claim sometimes needs to take a back seat. Each time I have come across these issues, I have sought guidance myself from colleagues and other professionals. Most importantly I have listened to my client’s families about their concerns and tried as much as I can to help guide them through their grief with practical solutions to their issues and in doing so, they eventually reached a settlement for their claims.