Damages for bereavement

Posted by Neille Ryan

Partner & Head of Personal Injury

Unfairness of current law

A fatal road traffic accident in which I am acting has brought into sharp focus the unfairness of the current law on statutory bereavement awards.

Firstly the award itself is pathetic - £12,980 for the loss of a loved one. Whilst I accept that the bereavement award is often “just” a part of the total final damages, nevertheless it seems paltry compensation for someone’s life.

But worse still are the restrictions on who can actually claim the award. If a child is 18 years or older when they die, then their parent cannot claim bereavement damages. Who on earth decided that the devastation of losing a child before their 18th birthday should be compensated but that the same devastation for a child aged 18 years or older should not warrant a bereavement award!

Equally bizarrely, even where the child dies under the age of 18, if the parents were unmarried then only the mother can claim – in my case mother and child died in the same car accident leaving only the unmarried father, so he is not entitled to an award – that is plain unfair.

Cohabiting but unmarried couples, even where the relationship has been long term, cannot claim a bereavement award in the event that one of them dies through someone else’s fault. So if your unmarried partner of 30 years dies you can’t claim, yet if the 2 of you had been married for just 1 day you could!

I know that attempts have been made to change the law but so far without success. I can only hope that now the election is out of the way, these issues will be revisited and the wrongs righted.

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