McHale & Co. Solicitors Blog

Fatal Damages Review

No amount of money can replace a loved one and if your partner dies due to a non-fault accident the law is harsh. Did you know that the amount of statutory damages that can be claimed following a death in England and Wales and Northern Ireland is roughly the same as what you could get awarded for a fractured toe.

In England and Wales you can only claim a fixed amount statutory bereavement award if you were married or had lived with the person who died continuously as husband and wife for the two years prior to their death. For a claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, damages are distributed in accordance with the strict terms of the statute and the damages will pass to the estate. The estate will then distribute the money in accordance with the deceased’s will or the intestacy rules if they died without a will.

The civil law offers a statutory sum of £12,980 to a limited number of bereaved relatives in England and Wales. If you suffer a fractured toe you would be entitled to claim up to around £12,000 if you live in England and Wales.

McHale & Co are an accredited APIL (Association of Personal Injuries) Practice.  We are one of less than 200 firms in the country honoured with this status. APIL are currently campaigning to change the way families are compensated following a fatal accident and the McHale & Co personal injury team are fully behind them. Adam Horner, personal injury and medical negligence solicitor commented: “The Courts and the judiciary have long recognised that the position is unfair when a loved one dies. Lord Diplock in the case of Cookson v Knowles back in 1979 stated that he was bound by the legislation but realised it was a ‘conjectural exercise’ which would not put a dependant widow back in the same economic position as they would have been if her husband had lived. The government and insurers are spending too much time trying to crackdown on whiplash cases and are not looking at those who need damages the most, those who are left on their own following a partner’s death. The bracket of people who can claim needs to be widened and the award needs to be much higher. Proposals were made in 2011 by the coalition government through the Civil Law Reform Bill but these were shelved. It is now time to reconsider and prioritise this wholly unfair law.”

In Scotland, the law is much fairer to families, basing the level of damages payable on a proper examination of the closeness of the deceased to bereaved relatives. There is no reason why this should not be extended to the rest of the UK. Research commissioned by APIL found that 80 per cent of people asked believed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the Scottish system is fairer.

The new Negligence & Damages Bill has been published this week which calls for these changes. The Bill also proposes reform to another long standing injustice relating to victims who suffer serious psychiatric illness when someone they love is killed or seriously injured. The law is currently strict on who can claim for psychiatric injuries through shock. The categories of people who can claim are limited and are children and parents, spouses and fiancée’s who can demonstrate that they have a sufficiently close tie of love and affection. Siblings, cousins and grandparents do not qualify. The new Bill shows a greater understanding of the catastrophic effects of psychiatric injuries or bereavements that can occur following an accident on loved ones and it provides a better understanding of the changing nature of relationships and family structures.

If you need a personal injury specialist get in touch with our experts by email mch@mchaleandco.co.uk or phone 0161 928 3848.

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