The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 provides that the statutory award for bereavement damages in England and Wales is currently £12,980. This is for deaths that occurred after 5th March 2013. Not only is this sum pitiful when considering the circumstances in which it is awarded, it can only be paid to a spouse of the deceased, or to a parent of a child under the age of 18. The rules clearly need reforming to extend eligibility to say partners, and other family members. Alternatively, as in Scotland, each case could be assessed on an individual basis to determine eligibility to receive an award of damages, and the level of that award.
A Bill to reform the law in England and Wales for bereaved families and victims of psychiatric illness has been introduced into the House of Commons. The Negligence and Damages Bill is a Private Members’ Bill by Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, supported by APIL. The Bill makes provisions to extend the prescribed list of relationships which have the required ‘close tie of love and affection’ to claim for psychiatric damages. It also brings the law on bereavement damages in line with Scotland where the level and eligibly is judged on individual merit. “In England and Wales the laws which are supposed to help both bereaved families and people suffering from psychiatric harm are woefully inflexible,” said APIL president Jonathan Wheeler. “People claiming compensation simply want to get their lives back on track. These events should never happen in the first place. But, when they do, they should be treated with fairness and understanding by the justice system,” he said.