Contact us to arrange your
FREE initial consultation

Email us Call me back

Written on 6th October 2020 by

From 6th October 2020 the law relating to who can claim bereavement payments in compensation claims for fatal accidents will change.

The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order 2020 updates Section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 which lists those who can claim the statutory bereavement payment as compensation after somebody dies as a result of negligence. 
Since it first became law in 1976, The Fatal Accidents Act has limited eligibility for the bereavement payment to the deceased’s widowed husband, wife or civil partner, or the parents of a deceased, minor child. If the deceased was not married to their partner, even if they were in a committed long- term relationship, the bereavement payment did not apply.  
Now, for the first time, the bereavement payment can be claimed by the deceased’s cohabiting partner, as long as they were living with the deceased as husband, wife or civil partner immediately before the death and had done so for at least two years.

Lawyers who represent claimants have long campaigned for the law in this area to be brought up to date. The bereavement payment is currently set at £15,210 and often forms a small part of a larger fatal accident claim, particularly where family members depended on the deceased’s income or for child care, driving, DIY and other household tasks (often referred to in legal cases as ‘loss of services’). Given its low value, it is more a gesture than ‘compensation’,  but after their partner’s untimely death, many long-term cohabitees learn that they are denied this small acknowledgement of their loss. In our modern society, this approach to bereaved partners has appeared grossly out of date.

The Court of Appeal clearly thought so too. In 2017 they declared that a court’s decision to deny an unmarried cohabitee claimant a bereavement payment after her partner’s death was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Since the Court of Appeal’s declaration in that case (Jacqueline Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust) claimants and their lawyers have been waiting eagerly for today’s change to the Fatal Accidents Act which brings the law up to date.

If you have suffered serious injury or bereavement as a result of medical negligence or an accident and would like to find out more about making a claim, contact us by email on claimsadvice@boyesturner.com.