Bereavement damages are a type of compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. You may be entitled to bereavement damages if your loved one has passed away in a fatal accident that was caused by the unlawful negligence of another party. In this guide, we will discuss what you need to know about bereavement damages in England and Wales, including claimant eligibility, time frames, and recent changes to be aware of.
What is the Fatal Accidents Act 1976?
The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is a piece of legislation that enables certain relatives and dependents of the deceased to claim losses. These losses include:
- Bereavement damages
- Funeral expenses
- Financial dependency
- Services dependency
What is the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award?
Under the Fatal Accidents Act, damages for bereavement are known as the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award. This purpose behind this award is to:
- compensate the bereaved loved ones for non-financial losses they would have otherwise enjoyed with the deceased
- provide financial support for the bereaved
- recognise the death was unlawful
- punish the party at fault
The award is a fixed, statutory payment of £15,120 and can only be claimed by a small group of people.
Who can claim for the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award?
There is a limited list of relatives or dependents who can claim for the award. This includes:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving civil partner
- Parents (if the deceased was “legitimate”, unmarried and a minor)
- The mother (if the deceased was “illegitimate”, unmarried and a minor)
- Cohabiting partners
If awarded, the compensation must be shared by all eligible claimants, so it’s important to include everybody who would be entitled when filing for the claim. If you believe you have a claim, please get in touch with Newtons’ specialist fatal accidents solicitors who can help you ensure your claim is watertight.
Who cannot claim for the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award?
Unfortunately, many bereaved loved ones are shocked to discover that they are not eligible to claim for the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award. They may be able to claim for other forms of compensation under the Fatal Accidents Act, however the statutory sum is limited in its eligible claimants. Here is a list of individuals who cannot claim for the award:
- Children who have lost a parent
- Parents of an adult child who is 18 years old or over
- The father (if the deceased was “illegitimate”, unmarried and a minor)
- Other extended family members, including aunts and uncles
What changes were made to the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award in 2020?
In May 2020, the fixed bereavement award payment was raised in England and Wales from £12,980 to £15,120 – this is an increase of £2,140. You will only be entitled to this increased payment if you lost a loved one on or after 1st May 2020.
In October 2020, the list of eligible claimants was expanded to include cohabiting partners of the deceased. This change was prompted by the case of Smith vs Lancashire Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and others  and is known as the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order. You can now make a bereavement damages claim if you were the cohabiting partner of the deceased for at least two years prior to their death. It is only applicable if you lost a loved one on or after 6th October 2020.
How do you claim under the Fatal Accidents Act?
To make a claim for bereavement damages under the Fatal Accidents Act, you should instruct a specialist fatal accidents claims solicitor. The earlier a solicitor can be brought into your case, the better chance you have of securing your claim. A solicitor can also help to ensure you claim for all the relevant types of compensation.
Is there a time limit for claiming the Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award?
Yes – as with many personal injury claims, there is a three-year time limit. This means that you have three years from the date of death or the date of the fatal accident to make your claim, however we would always advise starting your claim as soon as possible. If you are concerned about time limits or have any questions about them, please get in touch.
Do you need a solicitor to claim damages for bereavement?
We would highly advise seeking the support of a fatal accidents lawyer as this will put you in the best position to successfully pursue your claim. At Newtons, we understand that seeking damages for bereavement can be both stressful and upsetting, so we’re here to guide you through the process from start to finish, ensuring your claim is as comprehensive as possible.
To discuss your Fatal Accidents Bereavement Award claim, please get in touch today.