Law change to allow some bereaved partners to receive compensation
Important update for cohabiting couples following a bereavement
A claim for compensation is rarely at the forefront of a person’s mind following the death of a friend, partner or relative. However, if a legal claim is to be brought, it can include a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate and/or on behalf of the dependants of the deceased.
Among other losses, such as a loss of financial and services dependency, the claim can include bereavement damages, a sum fixed by statutory instrument (currently a derisory £15,120) which is only available to those who come within the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
Who has the right to bereavement damages?
The narrow category of individuals who can make a claim for bereavement damages is currently limited to:
- the wife, husband or civil partner of the deceased, and
- where deceased was a child and never married or a civil partner, the parents of the child (or the mother only if the child was illegitimate).
However, the law is to be changed to widen the category of those entitled to claim bereavement damages. In the case of Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the Court of Appeal declared that the exclusion of cohabitees (who had been living together for more than two years) from the list of those entitled to claim constituted a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 (the right to respect for family life).
This decision resulted in an amendment to the Fatal Accidents Act which will come into effect in England and Wales on 6 October 2020 (and will apply to causes of action which accrue on or after that date) to allow a claim for bereavement damages by the cohabiting partner of the deceased, providing the couple had cohabited for at least two years before the death.
Compensation for the grief and suffering for the loss of a loved one
For further information about fatal accident claims and the other types of loss which can be claimed following a death, please read this page.
We are sorry for those who are going through a difficult time, rest assured, we will make the process straightforward and work hard to support you and help you receive the claim you deserve. If you have any questions about making a compensation claim following a death or serious injury, please contact one of our personal injury claim solicitors on 0800 316 8892 or contact us online.