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Bereavement Compensation: Outdated And Unfair

Asbestos Related Diseases

Many people have been exposed to asbestos dust, whether it be at work, from washing a family member’s asbestos contaminated clothing, having lived close to an asbestos manufacturing factory or even from damaged asbestos materials being present in their home. Some of those people will, unfortunately, go on to develop fatal asbestos related diseases, often many decades later.

Mesothelioma, asbestos related lung cancer and asbestosis are all asbestos diseases that are fatal conditions. Our specialist Asbestos Disease Team assists asbestos disease sufferers and their families in securing compensation and DWP benefits every day. Our team has a wealth of experience in handling these cases and each of the 3 Partners within the Team has dealt with pursuing these claims for over 20 years each.

Part of the compensation in any fatal personal injury claim, including asbestos diseases, is for bereavement. Unfortunately, the law on bereavement compensation has existed for 40 years and is outdated, discriminatory and just does not reflect modern families.

Bereavement Compensation

If someone dies due to the negligence of someone else, part of the compensation that can be claimed is called “bereavement damages”. This is a set sum, only available to a very limited category of people, to acknowledge they have lost a loved one and will suffer grief and trauma as a result. The set sum and the category of people entitled to claim this part of the compensation is an insult.

As lawyers who deal with this part of the compensation process every day within asbestos disease claims, we believe the law is well overdue to be updated and to allow bereavement compensation of a fair sum to be paid to those who actually are going through the heartache of losing a loved one.

Who Can Claim a Bereavement Payment?

In England and Wales the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 allows the following people to be paid bereavement compensation within a successful negligence compensation claim:

  • The wife, husband or civil partner of someone who dies;
  • The unmarried partner of someone who dies, as long as they have lived together as a couple for at least 2 years immediately before the death;
  • If the person who dies is under 18 years old, his parents if he was legitimate, or only his mother if he was illegitimate.

Only one bereavement payment can be made and needs to be shared if more than one person claims it eg parents of a child.

The law does NOT allow the following people to be paid any bereavement compensation:

  • Parents if the deceased is over 18 years of age – the law seemingly takes the view that parents won’t feel grief when their adult child dies;
  • The unmarried partner if they have lived together for less than 2 years – if a couple commit to live together, surely that commitment should be recognised from day one and not an arbitrary 2 year period?
  • Fathers of a deceased person under 18 years old if they have not been married to the mother – even if a father has a close and loving relationship with the child who dies, unless he had been married to the mother of the child, he cannot claim bereavement compensation;
  • Children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents – even if the deceased was extremely close to a particular relative, that relative cannot claim bereavement compensation;
  • Anyone else who may have lived with the deceased – the grief they suffer is not recognised in law.

In Scotland the law allows claims for bereavement compensation to be considered on a factual basis in each individual claim and takes into account personal circumstances and the actual relationship of individuals with the person who has died. This means bereavement compensation is fairly paid.

How Much is a Bereavement Payment?

As of 2023, for those limited category of people who are entitled to a bereavement payment in England and Wales, the amount they will receive is £15,120. This is a pitiful and humiliating sum to reflect the grief and loss someone will go through. In over 40 years, the amount has only been increased by a total of £11,620.

Year         Set Payment for Bereavement
1982                           £3,500
1990                           £7,500
2002                          £10,000
2007                           £11,800
2013                            £12,980
2020                           £15,120

Change is Needed

The law on who can claim bereavement compensation and the amount to be paid is old fashioned and not reflective of today’s modern society in any way. Change is needed to make the law fair so bereavement payments actually benefit those who the deceased would want to have them.

Hopefully you will never be affected by this law but we see people who are affected every day and we ask that you support that change is urgently required.

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has a campaign lobbying for change. As lawyers who regularly see the unfairness caused by our current bereavement law in England and Wales, we urge people to join the campaign.

Assistance with Legal Claims

If you or a family member have been affected by an asbestos related disease, contact our dedicated Asbestos Disease Team on 0330 822 3451 or request a call back. There may be an entitlement to compensation and DWP benefits. The service we offer to those affected by asbestos diseases is at no financial risk to you. 

Further Reading