House of Lords call for Law Reform on Bereavement Damages in England and Wales

11 Sep 2020

In February earlier this year we commented on the case of Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHSFT.

Which had prompted the Court of Appeal to issue a declaration that section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, as it failed to allow Bereavement Damages (a statutory amount paid to qualifying relatives of a deceased in an injury claim) to be claimed, in England and Wales, by unmarried cohabiting partners.

At that time, the government acknowledged the need to increase bereavement damages and to extend the categories of Claimants to include cohabitees, but ruled out any further reform of the law in this area. This full article can be read here.

As my colleague, John Hall, noted in another article in March 2020, Bereavement Damages, in England and Wales, have now been increased (effective from May 2020) to £15,120. The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order 2020, to rectify matters to allow unmarried cohabitees to claim Bereavement Damages, in England and Wales, is currently passing through Parliament. The House of Lords, debated and approved the Order, last week and it is expected to pass into law in the near future. However, during the debate, a number of calls were made for the law in this area to be further reformed.

Amongst others the Shadow Attorney General Lord Falconer referred to the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 as “an archaic piece of legislation”, whilst Lord Hain stated that the current approach has led to a “postcode lottery game” (given the different systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland). Although the government refused to commit to any further reform, Baroness Bybrook agreed to pass the concerns raised to the Ministry of Justice for consideration.

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James Braund

Senior Associate