Clinical negligence and personal injury solicitors in the UK are calling for the current system controlling bereavement damages to be brought to an end.
Bereavement damages in England and Wales are currently fixed at a sum of £12,980 which is paid by the party who caused the death, but the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) says that this amount is unfair and that changes need to be made.
In Scotland, cases are considered on an individual basis and bereavement payments are usually higher.
A bereavement damage is a sum of money that is paid to a wife, husband or civil partner; the parents of an unmarried legitimate minor, the mother of an unmarried illegitimate minor and any children under the age of 18 of the person who passed away due to the negligence of another party.
The payment amount was increased in April 2013 from £11,800 to £12,980 as a result of an amendment to the Fatal Accident Act of 1976, although deaths that occurred before the 1st April 2013 will still only be compensated with £11,800.
In August of this year, APIL conducted an online survey and recently published the results which said 80% of those asked believed that the Scottish bereavement was fairer. The results quickly prompted calls for the law governing bereavement payments in England and Wales to be changed.
President of APIL, Matthew Stockwell, said: “For years we have been calling out for the law to be changed in this area, and this survey has shown just how far out of step with public opinion the system for awarding bereavement damages really is. In Scotland, cases are taken on their merits, damages are generally higher, and the law is much more flexible about who should receive them.”
Matthew went on: “Everyone knows, of course, that nothing can ever replace a loved one who has died. But it’s important to remember that we are talking here about bereavement caused by the negligence of another party. The fact that the death is needless can only increase the sense of pain and loss.”
Along with the majority of the 2,000 people asked believing a change was needed, 57% of those surveyed said a payment around £100,000 or higher would be more suitable.
The survey also revealed a large amount of support for extending the list of those who can receive bereavement payments. On the list of suggestions were the parents of the child killed regardless of their age; all children of the parent killed, including adopted children, regardless of their age; the fiancé or fiancée or the personal killed and the co-habitee of the person killed.
When asked about the list of new suggestions, Matthew Stockwell stated: “None of these people are eligible for bereavement damages in England and Wales, whilst most of them are entitled to claim in Scotland. It is particularly distasteful to me that parents of a child under the age of 18 should be entitled to bereavement damages but, once the child is 18, they are not…”
“It is unnatural for a parent to suffer the loss of a child, and that loss is no less if the child happens to be over the age of 18.”
“The law of bereavement damages is currently a postcode lottery and this needs to change.”
If you or a member of your family has suffered injury or death as a result of the negligence of someone else please contact Express Solicitors today on 0845 456 4007 to discuss your claim free of charge with an expert solicitor.