A proposal to include people only distantly associated with the deceased as dependants for the purposes of the Fatal Accident Act has caused a furore in the industry.

Legal firms are warning insurance firms that the Commission's suggestion to enlarge the categories of dependants could lead to a raft of small claims in individual cases.

The recommendation says that anyone who has reasonable expectation of benefit and continuation of the deceased's life has a right of claim.

"This wording means that anyone who knew the deceased could claim for trivial items such as loss of birthday presents or a lift to work," said partner at law firm Berrymans Lace Mawer. "The effect of these claims would be to dilute the pot of damages received by the main dependants, whose needs are far more important.

"Insurers should petition to have this clarified and to limit claims to those who are substantially dependant," he added.