Compensation for the death of father – to conclude a settlement or file a lawsuit?
Is concluding a settlement with the insurer beneficial for minor children who lost their father in a traffic accident? Or is it better to fight for compensation for the death of father?
The fatal accident took place in November 2015 on a national road in one of the towns in the Province of Warmińsko-Mazurskie. The driver of a VW passenger car, Sebastian W., moving from B towards O., for unexplained reasons, crossed to the opposite lane and collided with a Skoda vehicle. Sebastian W. was traveling with his friend Michał N. As a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, Michał N. died on the spot.
Michał N. was 34 at the time of the accident. He was the sole breadwinner of the family. He supported his wife, Agnieszka N., and two minor children – Magda N. (who was nine years old at the time) and Sylwia N. (two years old). He was employed in a foreign company, where he received a salary of approx. PLN 6500 per month. In his free time, he repaired machines and cars, which earned him an additional income of PLN 3000 per month. He had high professional qualifications, was constantly learning and improving his competences. The wife of the deceased did not work, took care of the house and took care of the children. The family lived at a high level. They went on holidays abroad, made current investments at home.
The deceased was an exemplary husband and father. He actively participated in family life, helped his wife in caring for the children. He bathed and changed his daughters, went with them to doctor's appointments, put them to sleep, played with them in the yard, participated in school and family celebrations. He also did all the cleaning at home - mowed the lawns, made minor repairs, took care of the car. They all had close and cordial relations.
The information about the death of Michał N. was a big shock for the whole family. Minor children were present when the policeman informed Agnieszka N. about the accident and the death of their father. They weren't able to understand what had happened. They kept asking about him, hoping he would come back. The elder daughter had great difficulties in daily functioning after the death of her father. She became nervous, she did not want to go to summer camps. She was reluctant to leave the house alone, sometimes riding a bicycle with a friend. She cried at night because she dreamed of her father almost every day. To this day, she has low emotional control, is very sensitive, often reacts to stressful situations by crying. She was using the help of a psychologist for some time. She still requires consultations, as well as visits to therapists and a psychiatrist.
The younger daughter was also severely affected by the loss of her father. Even though she was two years old when her father died, she still remembers everything. She still has trouble falling asleep. The girls are very sad, and when their peers talk about their fathers, they cry. School and kindergarten celebrations in which both parents participate, or Father's Day, are also stressful for them. Magda and Sylwia are also afraid of losing their mother very much. They do not want to let her out of the house alone, even when she goes to the store for a moment. They then look out the window and wait impatiently for their mother, call her and ask her when she will be back.
The financial situation of the children has also deteriorated. The burden of maintaining them rested on the unemployed mother, who, due to the age of the children, now devotes herself to their upbringing. The deceased's wife has been using the financial support of her family.
Due to the difficult financial situation, minors were granted a benefit from the 500+ program in the total amount of PLN 1000 and they also receive family allowances - about PLN 1200. The children don't go on vacation anymore.
The vehicle of the perpetrator of the accident was covered by civil liability insurance at TUiR "W" SA.
The mother of the minors, through a compensation company, reported the damage to the insurer, which carried out the liquidation procedure and paid the minors PLN 30000 each for the death of the closest family member, as well as PLN 25000 each for the deterioration of her life situation, and every month they transfer a pension of PLN 700 for each of the girls.
Since the amounts awarded by the insurer were underestimated, Agnieszka N. filed a lawsuit in 2017 with the District Court in Warsaw. To the great surprise of the mother of the minors, already at the first hearing, the terms of the settlement were proposed, under which each of the daughters was to receive PLN 60000 and in place of the monthly annuity of PLN 700 paid by the insurer - the payment of a small capitalized amount. As this situation seemed unfavorable to the mother of the underage girls, she began to seek help from other law firms. She learned about the Polska Kancelaria Pomocy Poszkodowanym from a friend. Having familiarized themselves with the case, the PKPP's legal advisers undertook to represent the interests of the minors before the District Court in Warsaw, so as to secure their future in the best possible way. Evidence proceedings were conducted in the case - documentation confirming the income earned by the deceased (both at work in the company and as part of "neighborly help") was attached to the files, witnesses were interviewed who objectively described the close relationship between the children and the tragically deceased father, and the negative consequences associated with his death. Reference was also made to the opinion of an expert in psychology, who unquestionably showed that the death of Michał N. had a direct impact on the deterioration of the children's mental state.
The evidence collected this way was assessed by the court, which, in its judgment of November 7, 2018, awarded each of the minors an additional amount of approx. PLN 800 (PLN 1500 in total per month) as a pension. According to the court, the pension in this amount (apart from the benefits granted under 500+ or the social pension) is not excessive, it meets the needs of minors, it satisfies not only the "justified" needs, but also all the other ones. In addition, the court awarded PLN 55000 each (PLN 80000 in total) as compensation for the significant deterioration of the girls' financial situation. It is obvious, as the court indicated, that otherwise they could have counted on their father's support in the future, providing them with good living conditions and a start in the future. Father would invest in their development, develop talents, provide high-quality education, finance extracurricular activities. Thanks to the increase in the amount of the pension and the amount of compensation, the girls will have a chance to see the world, visit other countries, as it was during the life of Michał N. The court also awarded PLN 170000 each (PLN 200000 in total) as compensation, indicating that it is adequate compensation for the pain and suffering of the children.
Justifying the amounts awarded, the court indicated that they were compensatory in nature, not excessive and in line with the sense of justice, while the amounts awarded to the children in the course of liquidation proceedings had been disproportionately low compared to the suffering and loss suffered.
To sum up, if the mother of the minors had entered into a settlement with the insurer, she would have received a total amount of PLN 210000 and would have been deprived of a monthly pension instead of a small one-time payment, while the District Court in Warsaw awarded a pension of PLN 3000 per month and a total amount of PLN 560000 plus interest for delay in payment in the amount of over PLN 80000. It is obvious that no amount of money can compensate the harm the children have suffered. A harm that is all the more severe because the death of their father, which happened suddenly and unexpectedly. Nevertheless, the awarded amounts will allow for proper development and securing the future of the minors.