Bereavement awards following the death of an unmarried partner will be made in the future following a Court of Appeal decision recently. A change in the law will affect thousands each year.
Bereavement Award-The Case
Miss Jakki Smith, an NHS worker took the government to court for breaching her human rights as she was denied bereavement damages following the death of her partner.
Miss Smith had been with her partner John Bulloch for 16 years. Problems started when he had a benign tumour on his right foot removed. He suffered infection and died shortly after.
The Law on Bereavement.
The Law which dictates these damages is the Fatal Accidents Act. The Act, made in 1976, some 41 years ago has had some udpates but the law confines damages as follow:-
(1) An action under this Act may consist of or include a claim for damages for bereavement.
(2) A claim for damages for bereavement shall only be for the benefit—
(a) of the wife or husband[or civil partner] of the deceased; and
(b)where the deceased was a minor who was never married[or a civil partner]
(i)of his parents, if he was legitimate; and
(ii)of his mother, if he was illegitimate.
Currently if someone dies and can claim the award is £12,980.
Miss Smith challenged the law and in particular drew reference to the difference between the 1976 Act and rights under the European Convention. Her first trial on the issue failed. The Court of Appeal has overruled the first initial High Court decision. Most noteworthy is that the judges said that the court was in need of reform.
Unfortunately Miss Smith will not benefit financially. However the decision will help others who are unmarried and may result in a review of the law which could extend it further still. The law will need change and this could happen quickly.
Bereavement Awards -Comment
At Corries we help a large number of people who have lost a loved one due to medical failings or asbestos diseases. Corries Director Howard Bonnett added
“This is a welcome and long overdue decision. I hope it leads to a wholesale change in the law. The rights of those who suffer bereavement after the loss of a family member have long been overlooked by old law.
We live in an age where less people marry each year and the failure rates of marriage put many off. Looking again at unmarried partners and others affected such as siblings, step children and others is much needed. Not everyone is brought up in the traditional “nuclear family”. Bereavement is such a visceral and heart breaking thing to suffer – the law should reflect this for all those affected.
The Law Commission looked at this issue in 2009 but a change the law was shelved. I hope the government gets this “off the shelf” and into law as quickly as possible. Change should be quick and wide and fair for everyone”
Corries claims Solicitors act for many affected by claims for deceased people. Call our friendly team FREE on 0800 655 6550 for a free confidential discussion. Click here to our home page //www.corries.co.uk