Lead Forensics
Prettys Solicitors Ipswich
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Fatal accident claims: update on bereavement awards

December 2017 - Issue 100

Over the years, modern culture and the law has changed to reflect the rights of co-habiting couples and partners in long-term relationships as being to some extent on par with those who are married or in a civil partnership.

However, in terms of personal injury claims, bereavement damages, which are a fixed fee sum awarded when a fatal accident takes place, are only payable to a very small category of  claimants;

  1. either a bereaved spouse ; or
  2. where the deceased was a minor who never married to;
    1. either of his parents if the deceased was legitimate; or
    2. the mother of the deceased if the child was illegitimate.

Damages for bereavement are currently set at a figure of £12,980.00.

Therefore, despite the length or closeness of the relationship to the deceased person, unless you are within the above restrictive category of persons, you are not entitled to claim for bereavement damages for the loss of that person. 

It is however now looking likely that his position will be reconsidered by the Government following the case of Jakki Smith, who took the Government to court on the basis that they had breached her human rights in denying her bereavement damages following the death of her partner of 16 years, John Bulloch.  Mr Bulloch died in 2011 after an infection was missed by medics.

Miss Smith alleged that by denying her bereavement damages, as a long term cohabitee, this violated her right to respect for private and family life and was discriminatory under the European Convention of Human Rights (“ECHR”). The Court of Appeal on 28 November 2017 granted Miss Smith permission to challenge the High Court ruling and declared that the exclusion of cohabitees from being awarded bereavement damages was incompatible with the ECHR.

It is now for the Government to review and amend the legislation to include cohabitees in the bereavement damages scheme.

What does this mean for you?

If the legislation is amended, it could result in:

  1. Claims for bereavement damages being brought by a wider category of people following the death of a loved one.
  2. An increase in the value of fatal accident claims if you are dealing with claims brought by claimants within categories other than those detailed above.
  3. Delay in the settlement of existing fatal accident cases involving co-habittees whilst the parties await the new legislation.
  4. An increase in the number of offers of settlement being made on existing fatal accident claims involving co-habittees.

Watch this space!

If you would like any advice or assistance arising out of a fatal accident claim, please contact our Louise Plant on 01473 232121 or email lplant@prettys.co.uk.

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