Compensation Increase for Bereaved Relatives is Not Enough

John Bennett
John Bennett

Published: November 8th, 2022

7 min read

The law in England continues to be particularly harsh when it comes to the death of a loved one. Only a long-standing, live-in partner, a spouse or dependent child can claim for the death and any losses arising from it.

The estate of the deceased can bring a claim for any additional pain and suffering caused by the negligence, but this is often limited to the date of the incident and the time of their death.

The value of the bereavement award payable in England and Wales is currently fixed at £15,120, if death occurs after the 6th October 2020. In Northern Ireland it has just been increased to £17,200. In Scotland the damages are assessed on case-by-case basis as they are in much of Europe. In France for example, other relatives of the deceased can claim for the effects of the loss of a family member.

APIL (The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers) are campaigning for an increase in the Bereavement award.

As the law currently stands only a spouse, live in partner and parent can claim the bereavement award.

Damages can be awarded for shock and distress to other outside this small pool of claimants but there has to be:

  • Close ties of love and affection with the deceased

  • The injury caused had to arise from a sudden and unexpected shock

  • They had to be personally present at the scene or witness the immediate aftermath

  • The injury had to be caused as a result of witnessing the death.

There have been a number of recent cases which have considered this:

  • One case involved the children of the deceased witnessed the death of their father after the hospital failed to perform an angiography a few years earlier, that would have revealed coronary artery disease, which could have been treated successfully.

  • The second case involved a seven-year-old with breathing difficulties. She was seen by her GP in 2014, referred to a paediatrician. After tests it was concluded his symptoms were related to exertion and were physiological. She was seen again in April 2015 and referred to the paediatrician. The hospital subsequently admitted that they should have diagnosed her condition by January 2015. She collapsed at school and died on the 1st of July 2015.

  • The third case involved a 20-year-old, who died as a result of pneumonia and pulmonary abscesses. In January 2013 she visited her GP on several occasions. It was alleged the GP failed to diagnose pneumonia on the 4th of April. On the 7th of April she was found lying on her bed, motionless having passed away.

On each occasion the family witnessed these horrifying events and sustained a psychiatric injury.

The defendants succeeded in arguing that the deaths in each of these cases were separated in space and time from the negligence. In other words, the failure to diagnose a condition didn't lead to any immediate and horrific death, the death occurred sometime later.

Whilst this decision restricts the possibility of secondary victims pursuing claims for psychiatric harm. Any individual who has had the misfortune of witnessing the shocking and horrific loss of a loved one may well still have a claim. There are many examples of such cases involving road traffic accidents and accidents at work where such claims have been successful.

In each of the cases described above, there may still be claims by the deceased's estate arising from any pain suffering that they endured from the date of the negligence until there untimely death. The dependants of those individuals and parents of children may also have claims for bereavement, fuel expenses, loss of love and affection and income.

If you have been unfortunate enough to be the victim of such incident, please contact one of the team for some no obligation, no-win no fee advice.

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