Who Can Claim Bereavement Damages?
Whilst it is possible to make a claim for loss of dependency and loss of services, under the Fatal Accident Act 1976 only certain Claimants are able to receive a statutory bereavement award. In England & Wales it is a fixed sum and is currently £15,120.
The award is out of date, something which has been under debate for a long period. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) – a non profit organisation which helps support the rights of injured people, has been campaigning for change.
- The problem is that that the award is currently:
only available to a very small class of relatives; and
- Low – only £15,120 and less than that awarded in both Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The first increase to this statutory award since 2013 took place in 2020 for deaths which occurred after 1/5/20. At this time its eligibility was also increased to allow partners who have been cohabiting for 2 years to be able to receive it, and bring it somewhat in line with modern living arrangements.
But arguably that is still not enough.
In Northern Ireland the award has recently increased to £17,200, still low, but at least it has risen to take into account inflation.
In Scotland they have an award called ‘loss of society’ which is the Scottish equivalent of the England & Wales bereavement award. It is assessed on a case- by- case basis and a more substantial award can be made to a wider range of eligible Claimants, who are able to show that they had a close relationship with the deceased.
The case of Haggerty-Garton & others v Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd highlights the disparity of Scottish law with that in England and Wales. Mr Haggarty lived in England but because his asbestos exposure was in Scotland, the English Courts applied Scottish law. The deceased’s widow was awarded £115,000 for loss of society. Had English law applied, she would have received a statutory bereavement award of £12,980 (the death being before the 2020 increase)
In England & Wales the award can only be claimed by:
- The husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased;
- An unmarried cohabitee who at the time of death, had been living in the same household of the deceased for at least 2 years;
- The parents, if the deceased at the time of death was an unmarried child aged under 18;
- The mother of an illegitimate child.
There are still many Claimants who are unable to claim for example:
- A close sibling;
- A child cannot claim for the death of a parent;
- A parent cannot claim for the death of a child who was over aged 18 at the time of death;
- A cohabitee cannot claim if they had been living with the deceased for less than 2 years;
- The father of an illegitimate child.
APIL continues with its campaign and is preparing for a parliamentary event later this month, which will hopefully help bring some long overdue change to this area of law.