Your Guide to the 2019 Bereavement Award
In this 2019 guide we will help walk you through the ins and outs of the bereavement award. We will cover what it is, how you may be eligible and the current amount you can claim for. We will also explain why we think the award amount is unjust.
Click the links on the right to navigation to different sections within this guide. If you are looking for the current and previous rates for bereavement damages, click the button below.
What Is a Bereavement Award?
A bereavement award under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is a ‘civil personal injury compensation claim’ at court. A claim is made following the unlawful death of a person involved in an accident or illness at work due to the fault, in whole, or in part, by another.
The most common allegation that a claims solicitor will argue against the Defendant will be under the tort law of negligence. Bereavement damages are paid where you may also hear the words ‘unlawful killing’ or where the death has occurred due to a criminal offence such as murder.
Who Is and Isn’t Entitled?
To successfully claim for damages, criteria must be met. You have to be a spouse, civil partner or parent if the child is under 18. Unmarried couples who’ve been together for at least two years are now included.
There are also situations where people are unable to claim. This includes children who’ve lost a parent, parents who’ve lost a child over 18, and the loss of a sibling. Grandparents and grandchildren are not entitled.
We Believe the Amount of a Bereavement Award Is Too Low
It’s our firm belief that the amount following the wrongful death of a loved one should be increased. One of the richest countries in the world, the UK (or specifically England & Wales) makes the loss of a life following a tragic fatal accident worthless or close to it. It is not right.
The award, in our respectful view, is too low. It does not provide sufficient compensation for suffering from the death of a family member. The government has assessed the award over the years for the loss of a close family member, wife, husband, son, daughter in the current sum of £12,980.
We all appreciate that no amount of money can compensate for the loss, but the government appears to suggest (or an excuse due to the pressure from insurance companies) that the death of a loved one is only worth a ‘token amount’. That is simply not right, it’s unjust and insurance companies are getting away in not paying a “fair” amount for the recognition that the death of a close family member was unlawful.
Examples of an Unjust Law
Here are some examples of why the bereavement award is an unjust law:
- In the death of an illegitimate child (under 18 years), the mother receives bereavement entitlement while the father gets nothing. But as the law stands, even if the father was entitled to an award, both parents would have to share it, thus they would receive £6,490 each for the pain, grief and suffering. Somehow the compensation will mean, to reflect society perhaps, the parents shared suffering means they share the award? There is no logical conclusion other than penny pinching.
- If an adult child (18 years plus) was killed in a road accident, the parents would receive nothing. Yet if the child was 17 years and 364 days old at the time of the accident, the parents would receive the full bereavement compensation. But that, as we have said before is still an insult and the parents would have to share it.
- In the death of a parent, for some unknown reason, may be it is from the Victorian era or due to the number of children that could be bereaved, a child receives absolutely nothing for the death of her/his mother or father. Maybe the lawmakers at the time thought that if both parents died in a fatal road accident (it is not as uncommon as you think) it would mean the children would be over-compensated because the insurance company for the person at fault would have to pay two awards. Therefore, for whatever reason a child losing his/her parent(s) gets absolutely nothing. It is not right.
- When a child sustained fatal injuries whilst under 18 but dies when over 18 years no bereavement damages are entitled. Can you believe it? No award is payable thanks to the case of Dolema v Deakin (1990).
What About Criminal Injuries Compensation?
If someone has died due to a violent crime, a qualified family may can claim compensation on behalf of the deceased. A child may claim if they were receiving parental care at the time of their parent’s death – this applies even if they are over 18. If a spouse or civil partner was financially dependent on the deceased, they are eligible to claim but won’t be able to claim for a bereavement award.
Claiming for the loss of life from a criminal injury is determined by a number of factors based on the impact it has had on their relative’s life. This may include financial dependency, caring dependency and funeral expenses.
Please click the link below to find out more about how criminal injuries compensation aligns with bereavement damages.
Watch Our Quick Guide
Government Benefit Support (Widow’s Allowance)
The Government scheme may help towards families who have lost a loved one, but it has been heavily criticised when it was updated recently as families, especially with children, are said be losing out.
A benefit is called a Bereavement Support Payment and is payable if a husband, wife or civil partner died on or after 6 April 2017.
If that is the case, then the following must be met:
- paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks
- the death was caused from an accident at work or a disease caused by work
- be under State Pension age
- be living in the UK or a country that pays bereavement benefits
But, according to the Childhood Bereavement Network, it claims that working families could lose out by £12,000 each due to the law change by the Conservative Government in 2017, as per this childhood bereavement article.
Widow’s Parent Allowance
A Government scheme may also pay you an additional amount under what is called the Widowed Parent’s Allowance if:
- husband, wife or civil partner died before 6 April 2017
- under State Pension age
- entitled to Child Benefit for at least one child and your late husband, wife or civil partner was their parent
- your late husband, wife or civil partner paid NI contributions, or they died as a result of an industrial accident or disease
The Government website also says that you may also claim WPA if you’re pregnant and your husband has died, or you’re pregnant after fertility treatment and your civil partner has died.
The amount you get is based on how much your late husband, wife or civil partner paid in National Insurance contributions and the maximum benefit paid is £117.10 a week.
Award for Unmarried Couples Challenged in Court
The rights for unmarried couples who suffer from a bereavement is being challenged in the Highest Court in England and Wales.
A legal challenge is to be pursued on behalf of parents who are not married should be entitled to receive the same bereavement benefits as those who are married. A spokesperson said that every year more than 2,000 families in the UK face the “double hit” of one parent dying and their partner realising that their children are not eligible for bereavement benefits.
It is reported that, on average, a cohabiting parent earning £10,000 a year loses out by over £15,000 over the children’s childhood if their partner dies.
In another example, as reported by the BBC, an unmarried woman from Chorley has won a historic legal battle. Jakki Smith argued that her human rights had been breached by not receiving bereavement damages following her partner’s death which was caused by an infection following a tumour removal. The court ruled in her favour stating that the bereavement award should be provided to anyone in a relationship for at least two years.
Taking Money from the Deceased’ Family Is Wrong
As fatal accident compensation solicitors we feel this is unjust to take up to 25% of the compensation for grieving families. However, whilst we do not like to charge any success fee, due to significant increases in court fees and drastic legal cost cutting we are forced to make a charge which currently stands at 12.5% (half what most other solicitors will charge) plus vat. We offer a No Win, No Fee service so the family are fully protected. It can be costly to go to another firm of solicitors.
Are you looking to claim compensation for the death of a family member? Please feel free to contact our specialist fatal accident solicitors for guidance and advice. We will be pleased to help you even if it is just a query rather than making a fatal accident claim.