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February 11th 2015

Medical Negligence

Bereavement damages – time to put a fair price on life for all

Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson

Head of Inquest Services Group & Senior Solicitor

Bereavement damages – time to put a fair price on life for all

By Simon Wilson, medical negligence expert and senior solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors

cancerBy Simon Wilson, medical negligence expert and senior solicitor at Neil Hudgell Solicitors

They say you can’t put a price on life, and that of course is perfectly true.

Without doubt, no amount of financial compensation can ever be enough to lessen the pain and hurt of losing a loved one in unexpected circumstances.

Money will never bring that special person back, nor fill the huge hole their death leaves in the lives of those left behind.

At Neil Hudgell Solicitors, as specialists in handling cases of personal injury and medical negligence, we handle many cases in which families have lost loved ones, and the very first service we offer is one of understanding and support.

We provide advice to help families cope with their loss, such as suggesting relevant charities and organisations they can turn to, whilst also supporting them to fully understand the process of pursuing a claim for compensation.

Although never easy – as money often seems so trivial in such difficult circumstances – conversations about financial planning, including bereavement payments and possible compensation claims, are hugely important.

Many families find themselves left without the major income earner and unable to pay their bills and mortgages. Some simply can’t meet the costs of raising and caring for their children.

Our specialist team of solicitors has the experience of obtaining substantial compensation on behalf of bereaved families who have lost loved ones in accidents, whether on the road, at work, or in other circumstances.

However, we continually see a clear divide in how this is managed across the UK, with a much different system operating in Scotland to those in England and Wales.

In England and Wales, only the spouse or civil partner of a deceased person, or the parents of a deceased child under the age of 18, can receive bereavement payments.

The amount they will receive is already set by statute, and not judged on a specific assessment of their individual need, and most families are surprised to learn that their loved one’s life has been valued at a worth of just £12,980 – far less than we secure for victims of serious injuries.

The matter can on occasions be further complicated, such as when couples separate and enter new relationships despite still being married. Should one be killed, it is not their current partner, but their former husband or wife who is entitled to bereavement payments.

It often can also seem very unfair, with these tight regulations and conditions making for some very difficult conversations with the grieving families we represent.

For example, a family who lose say a 20-year-old son or daughter who was still living with them would not get a bereavement award.

Also, there are no bereavement damages when an elderly person dies whose spouse has already passed away.

In both such cases, damages would be limited to their families to go towards funeral expenses, and a small amount to compensate for the deceased’s pain and suffering.

North of the border, however, there is more flexibility, and a system which many feel is much fairer.

Bereavement damages are awarded to a restricted number of relatives of a person who has been killed through someone else’s negligence, with judges deciding upon matters on a case by case basis.

Research by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) shows that the public considers this to be a much fairer system.

APIL have long called upon the Government to review the system for payment of bereavement damages in England and Wales, and it is a campaign we support.

Bereavement damages are currently a ‘postcode lottery’, and that simply cannot be right and must not continue.

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