What are bereavement damages?
Bereavement damages are sums of money paid to compensate families for their pain and suffering of the death of loved one following an accident or clinical negligence. The rationale is to compensate bereaved families for the non-financial benefits which would have been enjoyed but for the death, to provide practical assistance to the relatives, to recognise that the death was wrongful and to punish the party who caused the death.
In England and Wales, statutory bereavement damages are a fixed sum of £15,120.
Who can claim bereavement damages?
The current legislation entitles you to claim the bereavement award if you are:
- the wife, husband, or civil partner of the deceased
- the deceased’s partner – if they have cohabited for 2 years or more
- parents – where the deceased is a legitimate minor
- a mother – where the deceased is not a legitimate minor
Who is excluded from receiving bereavement damages?
In England and Wales, not everyone is entitled to claim bereavement damages. Unfortunately, as it currently stands the law fails to recognise the close relationships other family members may have.
The following categories of individuals are not entitled to claim bereavement damages:
- The unmarried father of a child under the age of 18
- Parents of an adult child who is over the age of 18
- Children who have lost a parent (regardless of the child’s age)
What is a Dependency claim?
These are claims made by the surviving dependants, such as the spouse, cohabitee or children who would have received financial support and/or services such as help with daily living activities, childcare, DIY, or gardening from the deceased had they survived.
Which laws are applicable to making claims for a death?
There are two pieces of legislation which deal with claims which have proved fatal. These are the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 which is a claim made on behalf of the deceased’s estate and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 which is a claim made by the deceased’s dependants.
Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934
Under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934, the deceased is entitled to a continuation of their existing rights from the time of injury until their death so this would cover a situation where the deceased dies from injuries sometime later. A claim may be made for their pain and suffering, loss of amenity and loss of income during that period. It does not include a claim for future losses.
The award for pain and suffering, loss of amenity will reflect the length and amount of suffering before their death. Therefore, if the death was instantaneous, there will be no compensation. Likewise, if prior to death the deceased was in a coma there may be no compensation as the deceased did not experience any pain or suffering.
These losses pass to the beneficiaries under the terms of the deceased’s will (or the intestacy rules if they die without a will).
Fatal Accidents Act 1976
Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, there are three main elements to the compensation:
- Funeral expenses – only claimable if the family was made to pay for them and only reasonable claims can be made
- Bereavement damages
- Dependency claims
Goodge Law are personal injury and medical negligence lawyers and can be contacted for a no-obligation phone consultation. If your loved one has been involved in a fatal incident that you do not believe was their fault, we can advise if a bereavement damages claim is viable.
We work on a no win-no fee basis so you will never have to fund any part of your claim. Click here to start your claim.