It should not be cheaper to kill than to maim.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Yet the amount of statutory damages
available following a death in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is lower
than the amount you can claim for a severely injured thumb.
We’re not talking about accidental death here, but needless,
avoidable, premature death due to someone else’s negligence. The civil law
offers a statutory sum of £12,980 to a limited number of bereaved relatives in
England and Wales (£11,800 in Northern Ireland). If you suffer a severe injury
to a thumb you would be entitled to claim up to around £29,000 if you live in
England and Wales.
In Scotland, the law is much fairer to families, basing the
level of damages payable on a proper examination of the closeness of the
deceased to bereaved relatives. Research commissioned by APIL found that 80 per
cent of people asked believed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the Scottish system
It goes without saying that no amount of money can
compensate for the loss of a loved one. But if damages are to be available,
then at least let’s make them fair and just, rather than an insult to the
memory of the deceased.
This issue has been on APIL’s campaign agenda for many years
and so we are delighted that, earlier this week, Andrew McDonald MP introduced
a Private Member’s Bill which will address this postcode lottery. We will be
offering Mr McDonald our full-throated support.
The Negligence and Damages Bill also tackles another
long-standing injustice relating to people who suffer serious psychiatric
illness when someone they love is killed or seriously injured. Again, we are
not talking about accidents, but about needless death and injury caused by
negligence. Nor is this about the devastating sadness of losing a loved one or
seeing someone you love injured, but circumstances where that sadness develops
into a recognisable psychiatric illness.
The system for claiming damages for this kind of psychiatric
injury emerged from the Hillsborough stadium disaster 26 years ago. It is rigid
and limited and has been considered by many to be unfair for years. For
example, the law only recognises a ‘close tie of love and affection’ between parents
and children, spouses and fiancées.
What about brothers and sisters? Grandparents and grandchildren? Cousins?
The law also expects the person suffering psychiatric
illness to have suffered some kind of shock. But what about the parent who has
watched a child die slowly as a result of medical negligence? It cannot be
right that a person who suffers psychiatric damage over a long period of time
is denied damages when a person who suffers an illness due to one event,
however shocking, is able to obtain damages. Medical science has developed
enormously in the last 26 years.
It’s high time the law caught up.
For more on these issues, see APIL’s short video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyjXr86sZYU
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