The latest industry insights into compensation law.

The Kobe Bryant helicopter crash – compensation options for helicopter crash victims and their families

On the 26th of January 2020, Kobe Bryant, widely regarded as one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna and seven others.

On the same day mourners gathered for a memorial service at the Los Angeles Staples Center, Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the crashed helicopter.

Australia is no stranger to wrongful death claims and bereaved persons in Queensland can be assured in knowing that there are a few options available to them in the event of the death of a loved one in an aviation accident such as a helicopter crash.

Deceased dependency claims

Spouses and children who were financially dependent on deceased may be entitled to make a claim as a dependent which are commonly referred to as wrongful death or dependency claims.

The compensation which can be recovered is also referred to as “damages”.  Those left behind who were dependent on the deceased can claim for the loss of economic or financial support and also  loss of services normally provided by the deceased as well as medical, funeral and other similar expenses.

It is this type of court claim which has been commenced by Kobe Bryant’s wife on her behalf and on behalf of the other surviving children.

Spouses include de facto partners who had lived with the deceased on a genuine domestic basis and:-

  • for a period of at least 2 years;
  • in instances where they were together for less than 2 years, there is evidence that there was a clear intention that the relationship, be a long-term committed relationship; or
  • there is a dependent who is a child of the relationship.

Children include any child of the deceased, adopted children, step-children, grandchildren and any other child whom the deceased has assumed responsibility over.  Children of the deceased born after their passing may also make a claim.

It is also important to note that:-

  • a deceased dependency claim requires one party to be “at-fault” and held liable for the death;
  • only one action can be brought on behalf of all dependents; and
  • with very few exceptions, the action must be brought within three years of the death.

Death benefits through a superannuation fund

A deceased person’s membership with a superannuation fund will often give them access to insurance benefits in the event of their death.  Whether any such benefits are available and how much are dependent the type of membership the deceased had with their fund as well as the specific insurance policy terms and conditions that the fund has agreed to be bound to.

Claims for death benefits, unlike deceased dependency claims, do not require another party to be “at-fault” for a person’s death.  An entitlement however must be claimed through the deceased person’s insurance policy.

Worker’s Compensation claims

In cases involving fatal injuries in the course of employment, compensation may be payable to the dependents of the deceased worker in the form of statutory benefits available through WorkCover Queensland.

The amount available is influenced by on the level of dependency and is paid as a lump sum.  Reasonable medical and funeral expenses are also available as well as weekly benefits for dependent children who are students or under 16.

Like superannuation death benefits, workers compensation statutory benefits do not require another party to be “at-fault” for a person’s death.

Any claims for fatal injury with WorkCover Queensland must be lodged with WorkCover within 6 months of the date of death of the worker.

Nervous shock cases

Compensation or damages for shock, severe grief and distress caused by the sudden and unexpected loss of a love one is available to family members and the class of persons who can make such a claim is not closed but usually includes any spouse, children and can also include parents, siblings and other close family members.

For nervous shock claims, claimants can seek damages for their pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses, past and future loss of income, past and future loss of superannuation, future medical treatment and past and future care and assistance if their psychiatric injury has been significant enough to cause them to take time off work and to require assistance in matters of day to day living.

Claims for nervous shock are separate or distinct or in additional to make a claim for wrongful death when dependent family members are seeking damages for loss of financial support and loss of services.

Ray is an Associate who works in the Brisbane office of vbr Lawyers with Greg Black. Ray successfully completed a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Laws and also his Practical Legal Training at QUT.
Greg is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading compensation law experts. Greg has a very healthy practice and enjoys providing his clients with superior personal service in every case. Greg is absolutely committed to achieving the best settlement outcomes for his clients while keeping the legal costs down.

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Claiming compensation can be intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. vbr Lawyers is the multi award winning firm that gets you real results. Lower costs, higher claims and unrelenting advocacy.

State updated!
Your state has been updated to QLD. Practice areas on compensation law have been updated.