At Hugh James we represent people in cases where loved ones have died and we have the difficulty of explaining to clients just how little compensation the statutory bereavement award is and how some of them may not be eligible to claim this at all.
The statutory bereavement award is currently set at £12,980 for cases in England and Wales. This was set in 2013 and has not been increased.
There is inequality to be found when you compare the award of £12,980 to that of £15,100 for claimants in Northern Ireland. Scotland does not have a set limit but instead awards compensation on a case by case basis.
The claimants able to claim the bereavement award is determined by a piece of legislation called the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and you can only claim it if you are:
- the spouse or civil partner of the deceased; or
- in cases involving the death of a child, their parents.
The government has presented a draft proposed Remedial Order to amend Section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and if this is implemented it will would allow the statutory bereavement award to be recovered by a ‘cohabiting partner’ of the deceased.
The draft proposed Remedial Order will, if implemented in its current form, add cohabiting partners to the narrow class of claimants eligible to recover bereavement damages, providing they:
- were living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of death; and
- had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least 2 years before the death; and
- were living during the whole of that period as the husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased.
In a situation where both a spouse and qualifying cohabitee are eligible for the statutory bereavement award, it is proposed that the award will be split equally between them.
The provisions of the Remedial Order will apply to causes of action which accrue on or after the day on which the Order comes into force, which is expected to be later this year.
This is a welcome change and development in this area of law but we also campaign for a higher level of damages to be available than the derisory amount of £12,980.