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Fatal Accidents – reform and damages for death

Solicitors in London

News article published on: 24th June 2014

The last government agreed to reform the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 following huge criticism from the legal profession, and got very close to doing so with the Civil Law Reform Bill.  There were, and sadly remain, very good reasons for this reform, primarily because the original statute reflected life in 1970s Great Britain, but modern families look very different forty years on.

The Act sets out the categories of people who can claim bereavement, dependency and other damages when a loved one is negligently killed, but in effect excludes:

  • the unmarried father of a deceased child;
  • unmarried couples who have lived together for less than two years, and
  • children brought up by a step-parent, even though they may have regarded the deceased as their mother or father.

Modern families deserve to be recognised and compensated in updated legislation that does not hark back to a bygone era, but also has a number of inconsistencies which themselves necessitate reform, such as permitting the parents of a deceased (legitimate) child to recover bereavement damages, but not a child who loses a parent.

The Bill was proceeding well under the last government and received cross-party support, but then the Conservatives won the general election. In January 2011 the Ministry of Justice announced that the current government was dropping the reform of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 proposed in the Civil Law Reform Bill. The reason given was that it “would not contribute to the delivery of the Government’s key priorities”.

Sadly there has only been one change since then: for deaths occurring after 1stApril 2013 the fixed bereavement damages award has increased from £11,800 to £12,980, which itself remains a paltry sum, always assuming you meet the strict 1970s criteria for the award.

If you have suffered a bereavement you may be entitled to a financial settlement to ease the financial burden you may face following the death. Contact us for a confindential chat to find out whether you can make a claim . Once we have spoken to you we can advise you on whether or not this is possible.

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