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Following calls by APIL and a parliamentary committee for a full consultation of the scheme, ministers have rejected calls for reformation of the current statutory bereavement award under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. They have instead promised an inflationary increase in the statutory amount to reflect the current economic climate. The current amount has not been increased since 2013 and rests at £12,980, a figure criticised for being too low. This contrasts the system in Scotland, in which awards are not limited as they are instead assessed on a case-by-case basis. Although the bereavement award is statutory, it is funded by way of insurance companies.
The award has also faced criticism for limiting those who can claim, as the scheme currently excludes children who have lost a parent, parents who have lost a child over the age of 18, siblings and grandparents. The current scheme therefore only allows for a spouse, civil partner, unmarried couple of two years or parent of a child under the age of 18 to claim damages for an unlawful death. The death must be caused by an accident or work-related illness which has arisen as a result of negligence. Difficulties arise in various circumstances, including but not limited to the death of an illegitimate child (whereby the mother receives the bereavement entitlement while the father is left with nothing) and where a child sustains fatal injuries whilst under the age of 18 but dies over the age of 18 (in accordance with the Dolema v Deakin (1990)).
The Ministry of Justice justified the recent decision to not increase the award on the basis that the award is intended to be a ‘token payment to a limited group of people’. Although no amount of money can compensate for the loss, a bereavement award can assist with alleviating some of the stresses that arise following the death of a loved one.
At Ramsdens Solicitors, our Personal Injury solicitors have vast experience in assisting bereaved families in claims for bereavement awards. We also advocate for families at inquests, and therefore are experienced in helping families who have lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence.
If you require advice following the death of a loved one, contact our Personal Injury solicitors for support on 0113 887 1834. Alternatively, you can make an enquiry using our online enquiry form and we will be in touch when it is convenient for you.