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Fatal Claims Compensation in England and Wales

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    Following a recent survey which highlights differences in compensation for death between England and Wales and Scotland the question is: what is fair compensation for a death due to negligence?

    By Ali Cloak

A recent survey highlighted that those claiming damages where a loved one has died as a result of negligence are likely to receive more compensation if they live in Scotland.  Changes are needed to ensure adequate compensation is awarded to the loved ones of those who die as a result of negligence in England & Wales.

The survey was commissioned by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and undertaken by Canadean Consumer Research in August 2013. It showed that 80% believe the system is fairer in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. The findings have prompted a call for the law in the rest of the UK to be brought in line with the Scottish approach.

THE PRESENT LAW:

Currently, under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 the bereavement award in England & Wales is set at £12,980 for deaths after 1st April 2013. This figure applies irrespective of the circumstances of the death or the number of bereaved relatives affected.  The legislation also limits the class of relatives who can claim this compensation if a death is due to negligence and presently only the spouse of the deceased or the parents of a child who dies under the age of 18 can claim this compensation.  57% of those surveyed indicated that a bereavement award of more than £100,000 would be appropriate where a death occurred as a result of negligence.

It is clear that no amount of money will make up for the needless death of a loved one but the paltry, ‘one size fits all’ approach to fatal claims compensation as currently adopted in England & Wales leaves a lot to be desired and is in need of reform. In Scotland, each case is taken on its own merits and there is flexibility as to who can receive the award and how much it should be. Awards are generally higher than the award currently set in England & Wales.

There are also calls to widen the category of those eligible to claim damages where a loved one has died needlessly. Welcome inclusions are the cohabitee and fiancé of the deceased, who currently do not qualify to seek bereavement damages under the laws in England & Wales.

Matthew Stockwell, President of APIL, highlights another odd exclusion in the current rules: a bereavement award may only be claimed by the parents of a child where the child is under 18. He says “It is particularly distasteful to me…It is unnatural for a parent to suffer the loss of a child and that is no less if the chid happens to be over the age of 18”.

OUR EXPERIENCE:

The Clinical Negligence Team are experienced in dealing with fatal claims, in particular where a death has been caused as a result of medical negligence. We know that there is no monetary value which can adequately compensate for the loss of a loved one. However, we endeavour to recover the maximum for our clients and to ensure that those responsible are held accountable. If you would like to discuss a case where someone has died as a result of negligence please get in touch.

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