Proposed reforms to bereavement award

Accidents and mistakes can happen, particularly in light of staff shortages and demands placed on the NHS in the UK. However, when incidents do occur due to medical negligence, the outcomes can be significant. Incorrect or delayed diagnosis, inappropriate treatment and other such incidents can all too often result in a life changing injury, impairment or even fatality.

In cases where the injured party has sadly passed away due to negligent medical treatment they have received, this can lead to their family seeking answers and justice for their loved one.

Whilst no amount of money will bring back their loved one, a claim can be made to seek compensation for what has happened. In the UK, part of this compensation is made up of a Statutory Bereavement Award.

At present, despite significant demand from Medical Negligence professionals to increase this sum, the Bereavement Award in England and Wales currently stands at £12,980. Whilst it may be possible to claim this alongside other damages such as compensation for pain and suffering, it is disappointing to note that this amount has not changed in over six years, despite revision of the value in Ireland and a case by case assessment being applied in Scotland.

In addition, the criteria for who can claim a bereavement payment are incredibly limited. It is only the following relations that can make a claim –

  • The husband / wife / civil partner of the deceased
  • The deceased’s parents, where the deceased was a minor
  • The mother of the deceased, if the deceased was a minor and the parents were not married.

Unfortunately this means that in England and Wales there is a wide group of people who would not be eligible to make a claim for the Statutory Bereavement award. This includes:

  • the deceased’s children;
  • the deceased unmarried partner;
  • parents or step-parents of deceased children over the age of 18; and
  • The father of a deceased minor (if he is not married to the deceased minor’s mother)

Regarding the bereavement award, Jade Price, Trainee Solicitor commented:

“The Government has proposed to amend the legislation to make bereavement damages available to claimants who cohabited with the deceased person for a period of at least two years immediately prior to the death.

A further proposal is that in instances where both a qualifying cohabitant and a spouse is eligible (i.e. where the deceased was still married and not yet divorced or separated but had been in a new cohabiting relationship for at least two years) the award should be divided equally between the eligible claimants.

These proposals were put forward to Parliament on 8th May 2019. We are hopeful that changes to the law will now be made.

Whilst further consideration surrounding the value of the bereavement payment is also required, these proposed changes are most certainly a step in the right direction”.

If you would like to discuss making a claim for compensation due to negligent medical treatment you or a loved one has received, please contact the Price Slater Gawne team on 0161 615 5554, by email to info@psg-law.co.uk or by visiting our Altrincham office.