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27 August 2008
A recent Supreme Court decision on deaths in the workplace has confirmed the principles that govern the right of a deceased employee's heirs to pursue compensation claims against employers.(1)
In order for a victim's heirs to pursue a physical injury claim on the basis of hereditary rights, a period of time must have elapsed between the accident and the employee's death in order for the injury to be regarded as having damaged the victim's physical integrity. If the victim's death is an immediate consequence of the accident, the damage suffered is not to physical integrity, but to life.(2) In the latter case the victim's heirs have no right to seek compensation for damages because the right to life is protected only as long as the person in question is alive, and actions causing loss of life are punishable under criminal law.
In order for relatives to seek compensation in their own right for physical injury or damage other than to property, they must produce objective evidence confirmed by medical reports. Such a claim cannot be submitted as a generic claim for damages or with a technical report. Compensation may be granted for economic damage if it can be shown that the workplace incident deprived the deceased's family of a regular source of financial support.
Compensation for damage other than to property is always due on the death of a relative. In addition to the seriousness of the injury, proof of entitlement to compensation can be assessed on the basis of the claimant's degree of kinship with the deceased, which is considered in quantifying damages. If the claimants did not live with the deceased, the amount of compensatory damages may be reduced.(3)
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