APIL has hailed calls from a parliamentary committee for an overhaul of the law on compensation for bereaved relatives as a “long-overdue recognition of modern society”.
“Someone’s parent, child, sibling, partner, or grandchild dies because of negligence, such as at work or on the road, every single day in England and Wales. But only a very restricted and outdated list of relatives can claim the statutory fixed sum of £12,980 in damages to atone for their loss,” explained APIL’s president Gordon Dalyell.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights has today called for a consultation on wholesale reform of the scheme in its report on a Government draft remedial order to extend eligibility to co-habiting couples. The current law only allows spouses, civil partners, and parents of children under the age of 18 to claim. If the child is ‘illegitimate’ only the mother can claim.
“Allowing co-habiting partners to claim statutory bereavement damages is just the start of many reforms which are needed to drag the law for bereaved families into the 21st century”, said Mr Dalyell.
“We have been making these arguments for years and finally to have recognition that the law is falling short of providing justice for relatives is a victory for fairness and common sense,” he said. “A sister can be just as bereft as a spouse, and a father’s loss is not less just because he never married his son’s mother, or his son had passed his 18th birthday”.
APIL has long called for England and Wales to adopt the Scottish model for bereavement damages, which assesses damages on a case-by-case basis. The committee says the consultation should explore whether this is a fairer approach.
“If the law in Scotland can identify that a relationship is determined by the relatives’ feelings for each other, and not their specific titles, there should be no reason why the law cannot do the same in England and Wales,” said Mr Dalyell.