As part of National Bereavement Awareness Week, Personal Injury specialist Ian Latimer comments on the unfairness of bereavement damages awarded following the death of a loved one in an accident or as a result of a disease.
Whilst no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one, £12,980.00 can be claimed as bereavement damages for the normal grief reaction following a fatal accident. This sum is in addition to any award for financial loss.
Under the Fatal Accident Act 1976, only a spouse or civil partner of the deceased or the parents of a child under the age of 18 can claim, and this sum is shared between all those eligible. Where the parents of a deceased child were unmarried at the time of the child’s birth, only the child’s mother is eligible for the award. This was somewhat of an outdated approach in 1976 let alone in the 21st century but remains the position.
Although the government has proposed that cohabiting partners should also be eligible it is subject to the claimant having lived with the deceased for at least 2 years as the deceased’s husband, wife or civil partner.
Parliament’s Human Rights Committee has suggested that eligibility should extend to ‘two people living together in an enduring relationship’ and that the requirement to have been living together for 2 years should be removed as it is not a fair indicator of a permanent and loyal relationship.
We agree and are of the view that the reforms should be far more radical and far-reaching so that as in Scotland other relatives are eligible, such as the child who loses a parent, the parent of an adult child, brothers and sisters, grandparents and so on.
Further as in Scotland where there have been awards of up to £80,000.00 the bereavement award should not be a fixed amount but should be assessed according to the circumstances of each case.
We Can Help
At MW we recognise the need to balance your grief with progressing the claim and have years of experience in advising bereaved families of their rights. Our Head of Department, Joanna Bailey, with years of experience in acting for bereaved families successfully acted for a bereaved family achieving an award approved by the High Court of £710,000.00 in 2013. Small enough to care, big enough to make a difference.