If the breadwinner in your family is killed or injured as a result of another person’s wrongdoing, you can claim for maintenance and loss of support under what is known in our common law as a “dependants’ action”. You will need to show that the breadwinner had a “legally enforceable duty to maintain and support” you.
What happens if you weren’t married?
This action has always been available to families in a formal marriage situation, and our courts have in recent times extended it widely – for example to same-sex couples, divorcees, and widows married under both African customary law and Islamic law.
Now the Supreme Court of Appeal has established a further extension to “unmarried persons in heterosexual relationships who have established a contractual reciprocal duty of support”.
The Court held the Road Accident Fund liable to compensate a woman and her daughter for the death in a traffic accident of the man who had been supporting them. The couple were unmarried but living in a ‘permanent life partnership’ pending preparations for marriage.
Don’t risk not having a co-habitation agreement
For a loss of support action to succeed it is critical for the claimant/s to be able to prove that a legal “duty of support” existed – highlighting once again the benefit to co-habitants of entering into a formal agreement regulating (at the very least) their financial affairs.
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