In English law, compensation for bereavement in claims arising out of the death of an injured person due to negligence of another, is fixed by Government made law. A statutory bereavement award is a type of compensation which is available only to certain family members and is fixed in amount.
Seven years after the last increase in 2013, the sum allowed in claims involving deaths occurring from 1 May 2020 onwards has increased to £15,120. A paltry sum, you might think, for the loss of a person’s life.
To add insult to injury, as the law currently stands, this sum can only be claimed by either the spouse or civil partner of the Deceased, or where the Deceased was a child, by his/her parents.
The status quo is in sharp contrast to the position in Scotland, for example, where in the same circumstances, a much wider group of family members can claim compensation for the “loss of society” of the Deceased. Furthermore, the awards are not fixed in amount, but can be considerably higher and reflect much more the particular circumstances of the individual case. This is, I would suggest, a much fairer approach than our English law.
The latest increase in the amount in England and Wales was preceded by considerable campaigning by Claimant representative bodies including the APIL (Association of Personal Injury Law). Finally, in March 2020, the Government published the draft Remedial Order to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, which was expected to see the range of Claimants eligible to recover bereavement awards extended with effect from June – July 2020. Unfortunately, implementation of the proposals appears to have been delayed temporarily, due to the COVID-19 emergency measures.
The draft proposed Remedial Order will, if implemented in its current form, add cohabiting partners to the current very narrow class of Claimants eligible in England and Wales to recover bereavement damages, provided they:
- were living with the Deceased in the same household immediately before the date of death; and
- had been living with the Deceased in the same household for at least 2 years prior to the death; and
- were living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased.
In a situation where both a spouse and qualifying cohabitee are eligible for the statutory bereavement award, it is proposed that the award will be split equally between them.
The provisions of the Remedial Order will apply to causes of action which accrue on or after the day on which the Order comes into force, which is expected now to be later this year.
Whilst these developments are welcome, we will continue to campaign for higher awards for bereavement and in addition, a wider class of those eligible to claim these awards when a close family member’s life is lost due to someone else’s negligence, as in Scotland.
Hodge Jones and Allen Solicitors have over four decades of experience in fighting for what’s right. Our specialist solicitors frequently act in cases involving fatal accidents and injuries. To talk with one of the team, call us on 0808 252 5231 or get in touch online.