Is it time to change the law in fatal accident claims?

The recent tragic fire in London has again raised the issue of compensation available in fatal accident claims.

In England and Wales, the law in this area is contained in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, which allows for a bereavement award to be paid.

However, those who can claim are limited to the spouse or civil partner or parents of a child who dies under 18.

This has to be contrasted with the position in Scotland where a spouse/civil partner or parent/children, siblings and grandparents/grandchildren can all make a claim.

The amount of the bereavement award also varies dramatically.  In England and Wales it is fixed – currently at £12,980.00.

In Scotland, there is no upper limit on the amount of the bereavement award and each case is treated on its own merits.   Whilst it is recognised that no amount of money can compensate for loss of a loved one, the award in Scotland has to be one which is just and awards of up to £80,000.00 for parents and spouses, £30,000.00 for siblings and £35,000.00 for adult children, have been made.

An attempt was made in October 2015 to change the law in England and Wales so that the situation was similar to that in Scotland.   Unfortunately, with the EU Referendum vote and subsequent general election, that potential change in the law has fallen by the wayside.

Hopefully, this bill will be reintroduced into parliament in the near future and MKB Solicitors would welcome reform of the law in this area to bring England and Wales into line with Scotland.   This would provide a measure of justice to bereaved families at a time when they are coping with losing a loved one and also are worried about the resulting financial impact on the family.    In our experience at MKB Solicitors, when dealing with fatal accident claims, families are shocked when we explain the limitations on who can claim and the amounts which are payable in such claims, which fortunately are rare but when they do occur, have a devastating effect on families.

If you are affected by anything in this article and wish to take advice, please do not hesitate to contact our personal injury expert, David Wilson, on 01226 210000.