Changes to the Bereavement Award in 2020

A bereavement award is a payment of compensation awarded when an unfortunate error has led to the death of a loved one. Historically, this award was £12,980. This was however later increased, so that any deaths occurring on or after 1st May 2020 would attract an increased award of £15,120.

Bereavement awards are governed by the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. – Until now, a bereavement award would only be awarded to the spouse of the deceased.  The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial Order) 2020 has however seen a revision made to the granting of this award, which came into force from 6th October 2020.  From this date, the eligibility for the bereavement award has been extended to include cohabitees.

This means that if you are living with your partner and they are involved in a fatal accident, you will now be entitled to receive a bereavement award, the same as a spouse has been able to for many years.

The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial Order) 2020 will amend the wording and definitions from the earlier act to include “cohabiting partner”. For the purposes of the Act, cohabiting partner will mean any person who:-

  • Was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of death
  • Had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before the date of death
  • Was living during the whole of the period as the wife, husband, civil or cohabiting partner of the deceased.

The Act will now include wife, husband, civil partner or cohabiting partner.

This change has come into force following the case of Jacqueline Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Other 2017. This case involved Jacqueline who brought a claim of clinical negligence following the death of her partner, John. They had cohabited for 11 years but never married.

It was decided by the Court of Appeal that limiting the category of people eligible for a Bereavement Award to wife, husband or civil partner conflicted with the European Convention of Human Rights. The Court felt that Jacqueline and John fulfilled the criteria needed to be eligible for the award save for the fact they were not married.

Fast forward to present day and the changes came into effect from 6th October 2020. It is important to be aware, these changes will not be applied retrospectively and will only apply to deaths that occur after this date.

This amendment is a welcome change and goes toward aligning legislation with the movement of social values and norms. Cohabiting with a partner is becoming increasingly common against that of a traditional marriage. It is important that legislative changes are made to reflect that where appropriate.

If you have been effected by the loss of a loved one due to medical negligence or your loved one has been involved in a fatal accident and you would like to discuss making a claim, our team are here to help. Please contact the team on 0161 615 5554, by email to or via livechat on our website.