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Fatal Accidents: APIL’s Call For a Revision of Bereavement Damages

By Principal Lawyer, Head of Travel Litigation (Manchester)

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) accuses bereavement damages in England and Wales as being awarded as if on a production line “with a prescriptive amount given to a restricted list of eligible relatives,” in the APIL’s president plea to readers of The Guardian this week. Jonathan Wheeler responded to an article in which two bereaved mothers whose teenage daughters were killed in a road traffic collision described the current level of damages as an ‘insult’.

The law of England and Wales provides for a bereavement award of just £12,980 for the death of a loved one, and the damages are only payable following the loss of certain family members set out within statute (restricted to a spouse, civil partner and the parents of a minor aged under 18). Damages for a broken leg or arm can therefore easily exceed those for death. Additional damages can be awarded for losses incurred by the estate of the deceased, including funeral expenses, and to financially dependent family members.

It is interesting to see how other jurisdictions within the EU tackle this sensitive and vital area of personal injury compensation.

The law across the border in Scotland is seemingly more sympathetic, allowing for examination of specific relationships and for damages to be paid to immediate family members with consideration of the grief and distress caused.

In Italy, the Courts refer to tables to determine the value of payments to be made to family members for non-economic loss, and in France the Courts have set a range of compensation awards for the surviving family members. These jurisdictions allow a much wider bracket of family members to pursue a case.

I understand, however, the approach in some jurisdictions is even more stringent. For example, in Germany and the Netherlands, no damages are generally awarded for the bereavement itself, and damages are only awarded if an economic loss can be proven.

The APIL’s stance, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that it cannot be right that it is cheaper to kill people than it is to maim them in England and Wales. The system of compensation needs to provide some recognition of the value of loss of life. Devising an alternative scheme is, however, fraught with difficulties and sensitivities.

The different approach in differing jurisdiction means there needs to be a careful analysis before presenting a claim for compensation following a death within Europe, to ensure issues of jurisdiction and applicable law are given appropriate consideration.

Joanne Berry is a Principal Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.

Slater and Gordon Travel Litigation Lawyers have extensive experience in pursuing claims for people injured in an accident overseas.

If you or a member of your family was injured in a road traffic accident overseas, Slater and Gordon No Win, No Fee Solicitors can help you with your claim for compensation. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9046, from abroad on +44 20 7657 155, or contact us online.

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