Bereavement Damages Claims

SLS 1 – Bereavement Damages Rule Change

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New rules mean unmarried partners will soon be able to claim bereavement damages as part of a personal injury claim

Under current rules close relatives and anyone financially dependent on someone who has died as the result of someone else’s wrongful act, neglect or default can make a personal injury claim for compensation.  However, only the deceased’s husband, wife, civil partner or parents can make a claim for bereavement damages for their grief.  This is unfair to unmarried couples affected by the loss of their partner who stand to lose out on a significant sum of money because they have consciously chosen not to have their relationship formally recognised. 

The good news is that following a Court of Appeal ruling in 2017, made in the case of Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, the government has announced that the rules will be changing shortly to ensure cohabiting couples can make a bereavement damages claim and so recover the same payment as a spouse or civil partner.

Bereavement damages

When somebody dies as the result of someone else’s wrongdoing, for example following a road traffic accident or accident at work, it is possible for certain people with whom the deceased was closely connected to make a claim for bereavement damages to compensate them for their grief and suffering.

The current damages payment available is set at £12,980 and can provide a valuable lifeline at a time where you may be struggling to cope financially in the aftermath of your loved one’s death.

The problem with the current rules

The problem with the current rules on bereavement damages is that they only entitle the following people to apply for the payment:

  • the deceased person’s husband, wife or civil partner; or
  • where the deceased was under the age of 18 and died without marrying or entering a civil partnership, their parents if they were married or their mother if they were not.

People living together as husband, wife or civil partner are excluded, which is manifestly unfair when you consider that over three million couples in the UK live together without getting married or entering a civil partnership.  Indeed, according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics in 2017, the number of people cohabiting in the UK has more than doubled in the past 20 years and is predicted to continue rising.

What the new rules will allow

Having recognised the injustice of the current situation, new rules to be introduced by the government within the next six to 12 months to amend the Fatal Accidents Act will enable cohabitants who lose their partner (on or after the date the changes come into effect) to claim bereavement damages in the same way married couples and civil partners can, provided that at the time of death the person making the claim had lived together with the deceased for at least two years.

This is welcome news that in our opinion is long overdue.

Have you been affected by a fatal accident? 

If you have recently been bereaved as the result of someone else’s wrongful act, neglect or default and wish to make a claim for bereavement damages then please contact our fatal accident claims lawyer Abid Hussain who will be happy to talk you through the process.

In addition, Abid will explain how by bringing a personal injury claim you could recover extra compensation for any financial losses arising out of your loved one’s death, including:

  • loss of earnings or pension entitlement;
  • funeral costs and other expenses; and
  • loss of future financial support.

And the good thing about making a personal injury claim is that the category of people who stand to benefit is much wider than if a claim for a bereavement payment alone were to be made.  For example, a personal injury claim can be used to help secure compensation for the children of someone who has died in a fatal accident or even the grandchildren of grandparents who provided them with financial support.

You need to act quickly though as there are strict time limits for bringing a personal injury claim so do not delay, call our lawyers in Crewe today on 0800 1956412 or email Step Legal Solicitors at enquiries@steplegal.co.uk.