The law is contained in the Fatal Accidents Act of 1976 and the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1934.
1. Expenses incurred before death
The LRMPA allows the recovery of funeral expenses under section 1 (2) (c) which establishes that the deceased’s estate can claim them. In addition, other expenses can also be claimed under the LRMPA. These are limited to what the deceased himself could have claimed had he lived. Section 1 (1) of the LRMPA states:
Subject to the provisions of this section on the death of any person after the commencement of this Law, all causes of action that subsist against him or conferred on him will survive or, as the case may be, for the benefit of his estate.
2. Definition of “funeral expenses”
“Funeral expenses” are not defined in any law. The jurisprudence does not give us an exhaustive definition either. What is clear from the case law is that in claims under both the 1976 Fatal Accidents Act and the 1934 LRMPA, funeral expenses must be “reasonable in all circumstances.” The proof appears to be the same in both Acts. Relevant circumstances will include the deceased’s position in life, occupation, and racial origin (Goldstein vs. Salvation Army Assurance Society  2 KB 291; Hart vs. Griffiths-Jones  2 All ER 729 to 731 according to Streatfield J; Gammell vs. Wilson  CA 27,  2 All ER 557, CA).
Some examples of what has been considered (a) a funeral expense and (b) a reasonable or unreasonable funeral expense according to case law include:
St George v Turner  CLY 936 – an exceptional case in which damages were recovered for funeral expenses in Japan in excess of £ 50,000, including a family Buddhist altar and accessories; funeral costs; the cost of a Buddhist renaming ceremony for the dead; payments for the attendance of Buddhist monks; a tombstone and works; a memorial day reception; and an anniversary reception. A Japanese woman had been murdered by her English husband. McGregor on Damages comments on this case “This is believed to be too extreme to be sustained; even murder cannot influence the level of recovery of funeral expenses.”
Smith vs. Marchioness / Bowbelle (January 27, 1993) – Reception was allowed as reasonable. “A claimant cannot ignore the social obligation to provide some refreshments to guests.” Social deficiencies must be noted and the £ 400 spent was recovered. See also St George v Turner (May 10, 2003, not reported). Contrast Gammell vs. Wilson  AC 27, CA
Gammell v Wilson (first instance) – a headstone or headstone would be considered a reasonable expense. In addition, reasonable funeral expenses may include the costs of a burial in another country if that is where the deceased came from (see also St George v Turner above)
Schneider vs. Eisovich  2QB 430 – the expenses of two family members who traveled to France to organize the return of the body (of the brother) were reasonable. Paull J ruled that the services provided had to be necessary and as the expenses would have been incurred in any event, they were reasonable.
Hart vs. Griffiths Jones  2 All ER 729 – Embalming the body of a four-year-old was a reasonable expense.
Goldstein vs. Salvation Army Assurance Society  2 KB 291 – the cost of a tombstone was reasonable.
Harding vs. Scott-Moncrieff  EWHC 1733 (QB) – Funeral expenses did not include funeral expenses, attorneys ‘fees, accountants’ fees, and the appraiser’s report.
Quainoo v Brent and Harrow Area Health Authority (1982) 132 NLJ 1100 AND Gammell vs. Wilson  AC 27, CA– The expenses of an overly elaborate wake failed.
Gammell vs. Wilson  AC 27, CA – The Court of Appeal confirmed, with some hesitation, the lower court award of £ 595 for a headstone in respect of a funeral which had taken place in 1976. A member of the court noted that “the tombstone … in this case it was very close to the boundary between a tombstone and a monument”. The Court of Appeal approved the approach “that there is a distinction between a headstone that finishes off, describes and marks the grave, which is part of the funeral expenses, and a memorial, which is not.” Expenses for an elaborate wake and mourning clothing were unrecoverable.
Stanton vs. Ewart F Youldon Ltd  1 All ER 429,  1 WLR 543 – spending on a monument or monument was unreasonable under the circumstances, but a simple headstone would be allowed. McNair J said ““ The legal position is that a stone on a grave can properly be considered part of the funeral expenses if it is a reasonable expense for the persons in the position of the deceased and for the relatives who are responsible for the actual arrangement of the stone. ; but insofar as it is simply a memorial erected as a sign of love and affection, it should not be included.For”
The claim also included £ 5 paid to the minister for attending the funeral, £ 8 for two additional limousines at the funeral and £ 5 for bringing the body home. These payments were also included as reasonable funeral expenses in the damages recovered.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive definition of funeral expenses or, more importantly, reasonable funeral expenses. When considering these elements in a fatal accident claim, it will be a case of considering case law and the two acts as guidance, and making a reasoned judgment based on this.