01482 778 463
Client Focussed
No Win No Fee
Specialist Legal Teams
Hudgell Solicitors™ | Latest News | The unfairness of the law on bereavement damages following fatal accidents

The unfairness of the law on bereavement damages following fatal accidents

Man comforting his sad mourning friend


In this enlightened age you may be surprised to learn that following a fatal accident a cohabiting partner has no entitlement to an award of bereavement damages.  The statutory payment of £12,980 is payable to the husband or wife left behind and to a formal civil partner,  but not to anyone whose relationship – however long and however meaningful  –  had not been formalised by a marriage certificate or civil partnership registration.  This wholly unsatisfactory situation has recently come for review by the Court of Appeal in the case of Jacqueline Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and others. The finding of the Court was that the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 allows cohabitees to claim for dependency but does not permit them to claim bereavement damages. This distinction was found to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.  While the Act remains law this situation cannot be altered but consideration should be given to paying bereavement damages to cohabitees.    The Judges sitting in the Court of Appeal made the following observations:

  • Cohabitees of long-standing should be entitled to bereavement damages, but are not so entitled while the Fatal Accidents Act is in its present form;
  • Arguably, other classes of claimants may be entitled to bereavement damages;
  • Until the Act is changed compensators (including public authorities) are not obliged to pay bereavement damages to cohabitees; and
  • Where bereavement damages are paid to a claimant, he or she should not be entitled to a further award for loss of care and affection.

In Smith the Court of Appeal found that the provision of bereavement damages was a measure by which the State shows respect for family life, which is a core value of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. There was no real justification to discriminate against long-standing cohabitees particularly where those same people could recover damages for loss of dependency, and would experience the exact same grief which the award exists to compensate for.

The Court of Appeal declared that the relevant part of the Fatal Accidents Act is incompatible with the Convention. It now falls to Parliament to amend the Act.

Will insurers do the decent thing? Until the Act is amended they are not obliged to pay bereavement damages to cohabitees. We will though look to include such a claim wherever possible and argue the moral obligation at this stage.

What about the separate awards for loss of care and affection?   Historically in an effort to justify some payment for a bereaved cohabitee claimant’s solicitors, including us, have sought to claim a modest amount in this respect. The Court did not comment on claims for damages for the loss of a partner’s care and affection (as distinct from bereavement damages),  but its confirmation of what bereavement damages  are meant to compensate for seemed to be a clear indication that a person awarded  formal bereavement damages  should not receive any separate award.

Will other people be able qualify for bereavement damages?

The entitlement to a bereavement damages award – other than to married or civil partners – is very limited.  For example a parent suffering a death of a child of 18 years of age or over has no such entitlement  –  whereas under that age they do –  and  I have seen many tragic cases involving the deaths of young unmarried  girls and boys where this has been the case.  It is a very difficult thing to explain to a mother or father that the law dictates that the death of their child will result in little or no compensation at all.

The Court of Appeal made clear the existing scope of bereavement damages as “intended to reflect the grief that ordinarily flows from the intimacy which is usually an inherent part of the relationship between husband and wife and civil partners.” It is rigid in its wording and until Parliament looks again at the Fatal Accidents – as indeed it should – there will be no entitlement to anyone outside its current scope.  Again it is to be hope that insurers look to do the decent thing in these tragic cases.

Contact us for advice following loss of a loved one from a fatal accident.  We will do all that we can to help.

 

No Comments

Leave a Reply

*Required

The Author

author image

Jane Woodcock

Senior Legal Executive and Head of Personal Injury

jw@hudgellsolicitors.co.uk

Request a callback

Request A Callback

I am an existing client.










Or call us FREE on:

01482 778 463


trust pilottrustpilot startrustpilot startrustpilot startrustpilot startrustpilot star

The data you submit will only be used by Hudgell Solicitors and only for the purpose of dealing with your enquiry.
See full privacy policy.

Looking to see if you're eligible?

Get in touch for free legal advice

0808 159 7699

Call today to speak to an expert

OR
Start your claim

What Our Clients Think

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Fantastic service

"Fantastic service, on the ball with everything and good outcome"

Hayley coleman

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Very professional

"Very professional, took all the stress off my hands and very pleasant to deal with.… "

Steve

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Hudgsell’s were our insurers with…traffic accident in France - successful claim.

"Hudgsell’s were our insurers with regard to road traffic accidents occurring abroad, (France) we were… "

P. Nevitt

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Always honest with there appraisal and…

"Always honest with there appraisal and willing to listen"

Tim Edge/

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Made the whole holiday illness claim…

"Made the whole holiday illness claim stress free. Updates given regularly- overall a pleasure to… "

Kate

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

I was fortunate to find Hudgell…

"I was fortunate to find Hudgell Solicitors after having an official complaint upheld. After I… "

James Henderson

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Great service

"Great service. Kept informed at all times. Good results"

ROY NAYLOR

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Very professional and pleasant…

"Very professional and pleasant solicitors .. kept me up to date and was very prompt… "

Julie

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Recommended!

"Friendly, Helpful, and fair. Would recommend Hudgells to anyone I know."

Paul

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Friendly professional service.

"Excellent service all way through."

Sakina begum

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Thrilled

"After not knowing what to do, hudgell have helped me thoroughly through the process and… "

Adam Shutt

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

helpful informative efficient and…

"helpful informative efficient and friendly these are all the qualities I found with the firm… "

Sharon Coultas

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

it took a long time but i definitely…

"it took a long time but i definitely got the result i wanted and deserved… "

Jan Mack

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Very good efficient service

"Very good efficient service"

Amelia Jacobs

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Excellent service throughout my case

"Excellent service throughout my case Handled with ease and quickly"

Wayne Carter

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Excellent service in difficult…

"Excellent service in difficult circumstances Secured my compensation and won my case when other solicitors… "

Michael

trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star trustpilot-star

Fantastic team & Sarah :)

"Fantastic team and Sarah my Solicitor! Sarah has Handled everything for me, right up until… "

Sibel Sibel

Rated 9 out of 10 based on 476 reviews

Powered by Trustpilot

Our offices

London

55 Fleet Street
EC4Y 1JU
DX 437 Chancery Lane

VIEW DETAILS

Hull

No 2 @ The Dock
46 Humber Street
HU1 1TU
DX 11923 Hull

VIEW DETAILS

Leeds

10 Park Place
Leeds
LS1 2RU
DX 744770 Leeds 19

VIEW DETAILS

Manchester

1 St Peter’s Square
Third Floor
Manchester
M2 3AE

 

VIEW DETAILS

© 2019 Hudgell Solicitors®. All Rights Reserved.

Hudgell Solicitors is a trading name of Neil Hudgell Limited | Director Dr. Neil Hudgell MA LLB (Hons) LLD | Registered in England No. 7078429 | Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority | SRA No. 521372 | VAT Registration No. 254 7802 90