Remedies for accident victims involved in explosives explosions


In recent times, news of unfortunate loss of lives and untold injuries suffered by people as a result of wrongful storage and/or usage of explosives, especially at mining/quarry sites, are making headlines. Most often, such incidents are discussed at length in the media; but they end up merely as discussion topics, and sometimes assurances that victims will be appropriately compensated and justice meted out to wrongdoers go nowhere.

While state institutions are mandated to investigate these incidents and ensure that perpetrators of unlawful acts which led to these explosions are brought to book, the untold predicaments that victims of such incidents go through often escape the media. People are not concerned about a restoration of life and joy to victims of such incidents. This is largely the case because victims are unaware of remedies the law has laid down for them in such situations.

In this article, we highlight key remedies available to victims and families of victims of explosives explosions under Ghanaian law. Our goal is bringing to light the remedies available to victims in their bid to seek legal redress.

  • Who are the ‘victims’ of explosives explosions?

In the context of this article, ‘victims’ refers to persons or entities that directly or indirectly suffer substantial damage or injury either to life, health or property because of explosives explosions. Where the victims are deceased, their representatives may take certain actions to claim remedies for the deceased person’s loss of life due to the unlawful act’s resulting in the loss of life. In effect, both injured victims and families of deceased persons may have the capacity to seek legal redress as victims of such incidents.

  • What remedies are available to victims who suffer physical bodily injuries – personal injuries?

Victims who suffer physical bodily injuries (personal injuries) resulting in health complications or hospital admissions for treatment (injury victims) may be entitled to both or either of the two kinds of compensatory (damages) remedies under Ghanaian law. These compensatory remedies are for ‘non-pecuniary damages or losses’ and ‘pecuniary damages or losses’. Pecuniary damages are losses that can be expressed in monetary terms, while non-pecuniary damages are losses that cannot be measured in monetary terms.

  • Non-pecuniary losses

Examples of non-pecuniary losses are:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of amenities (deprivation of some sort of enjoyment in life or ability to live life fully; e.g., effect on one’s prospects in marriage);
  • The injury itself (e.g., loss of a limb or loss of an eye, etc.).

As a rule, for non-pecuniary losses an exact amount cannot be paid to fully compensate victims, but a reasonable sum of money is to be determined upon consideration of factors such as:

  • the period spent at a hospital facility for treatment;
  • the status and level in life of the injury victim;
  • the contribution of the injury victim to the injury;
  • the extent of injury etc.
  • Pecuniary losses

Pecuniary losses are in two (2) categories: ‘Special Damages’ and ‘General Damages’. Damages, in simple terms, are monetary compensations to injury victims or families of deceased persons who suffered some losses as a natural consequence of the accident or harm (explosion of explosives in this case). Examples of pecuniary losses are:

  • loss of income from employment;
  • loss of future earnings;
  • loss of expectations from life;
  • loss of pension rights;
  • loss of housekeeping capacity;
  • medical expenses, etc.

Therefore, the damages to be given victims for pecuniary losses may either be special damages or general damages, or both.

  • Special damages – compensation for specific losses due to personal injury

Injury victims may resort to appropriate legal action to claim compensation in the nature of special damages. These special damages could be in the following forms:

  • Payment of medical bills arising from or in connection with treatment of the injury at a medical facility;
  • Payment for loss of income when the injury victim who is a worker and earns salary or regular wages is unable to work due to an incapacitation, or duration of time spent in hospital seeking treatment for the injury;
  • Payment of transportation cost to and from hospital for treatment;
  • Other specific and provable expenses incurred because of the personal injury, etc.

We however want to emphasise that to successfully claim the special damages above, injury victims must specifically produce evidence backing their claims. These pieces of evidence could be receipts issued by the medical facility from which the injury victim sought medical attention; salary payment slips for those who work in the formal sector; or demonstrate by other means regular earnings of the injury victim.

  • General damages – compensatory payment for the natural consequence of sustaining the injury

In terms of general damages, injury victims may resort to legal action to seek compensation for losses which are natural consequences of the personal injury. General damages seek to put the victim, as far as money can, in the position he/she would have been in had he/she not sustained the injury.

Unlike specific damages that the injury victim ought to specifically prove by evidence which the court finds credible and admissible, general damages are generally awarded at the discretion of the court having regard to facts of the case and the overall evidence in proving the case. The injury victim may therefore be paid some reasonable sum of money to compensate for losses, such as:

  • Loss of earnings after the injury but before a court judgment is delivered by a court;
  • Loss of future earnings had the injury not occurred;
  • Loss of (shortened) expectation of life – this assumes that the injury victim could have lived and continued to fulfil his/her life’s dreams and expectations had the injury not occurred[i];
  • Loss of housekeeping capacity where the injury victim is unable to perform domestic duties due to the injury[ii]
  • What Remedies are available to victims who suffered injury to their properties?

Sometimes the injury suffered may not be physical bodily injury or even death, but injury to property. As a rule of law, persons whose properties are damaged by the unlawful act, conduct or omission of others are permitted by law to seek some remedies. These remedies may be either special damages or general damages. These may be in respect of items such as:

  • Payment of compensation for the damage caused to the property;
  • Demand to repay the value of property with interest accruing on the value;
  • Demand for rebuilding the damaged property;
  • Demand for replacement of the damaged property if monetary compensations won’t suffice, etc.

Here, also, the specific destruction to property and cost of that destruction must be proved to the court before it can award either or both special or general damages. Let’s say that your house, where you have lived for years, was destroyed because of an explosion close by. If the house is valued to cost GH¢1million, you are likely to get that amount as specific or special damages and compensation for loss of the property.

Also, following the destruction of your house, if you had to lodge in a hotel for three (3) months at a daily rate of GH¢200, you can produce evidence as to your payment of GH¢200 as a result of your house’s destruction due to the explosion and the court may award you the total amount of money you spent in seeking an alternative accommodation during the destruction and repair or rebuilding of your house.

  • What Remedies are available to families of persons who died?

What if a loved one lost his or her life because of the explosion? The death creates two effects in law: one is that any existing contractual right or cause of action the deceased is personally involved in will be terminated; second, dependants or family members of the deceased may have the right to sue for some sort of compensation for loss of life.

For dependants to sue and claim compensation, it must first be satisfied that they qualify to sue for compensation for loss of life under the law[iii]. The law specifies persons who may sue another/other party/parties at fault for compensation. The persons are:

  • Any member of the deceased’s family;
  • Any person who is adopted by the deceased, or who the deceased was obliged to maintain while alive.

For avoidance of doubt, family members of deceased include:

  • Family members by paternal system who are mother; father; wife, son, daughter, brother, sister and father’s brother;
  • Family members by maternal system who are mother, father, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, mother’s mother, mother’s brother; mother’s sister, sister’s son, sister’s daughter, mother’s sister’s son, mother’s sister’s daughter. (Note: husband is missing from the list);

In effect, where the deceased person’s death is a result of negligence by another person or entity, that person or entity can be sued in court by the family members or dependants for the deceased person’s loss of life. The court may in such actions grant compensation to family members or dependants if they are able to prove the harm or loss they suffered because of their loved one’s death.


Ghanaian law mostly provides one remedy or another to victims of explosions, but the challenge has always been that victims are unaware of those remedies. We believe the highlights shared here will contribute to the efforts of victims in seeking legal redress.

[i] Atsyor v. Donkor (1980) 273

[ii] Daly v. General Steam Navigation Co. (1981)1WLR 120

[iii] See the Civil Liability Act 1963 (Act 176).


Godwin Selasi Dakpo, Esq. is a private legal practitioner and Managing Counsel of The Law Office of Elisa Kumadey where he specialises in Corporate, Commercial and Land Litigation, Corporate & Immigration Practices aside from other areas of practice. You can reach Godwin via [email protected] or [email protected]

Jonathan Adzokpe is a Final Year Law Student at the Ghana School of Law. Jonathan has interest in Real Estate Law, Natural Resources Law and Litigation, and seeks to specialise in these practice areas after his call to the Bar, hopefully in 2023. You can reach Jonathan via [email protected].

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