Justice for families of people killed by negligence in England and Wales trails behind the rest of the UK, lawyers warn as Northern Ireland announces an increase in bereavement compensation today (11 April).
“The family of a man killed at work is treated very differently depending on which jurisdiction he was in when he died. It’s a broadening gulf,” said Brett Dixon, president of not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
He explained: “Some relatives can make a legal claim for a fixed statutory payment of bereavement damages, which is supposed to make amends for the fact that their loved ones should still be alive.
“Since the last time the level of bereavement damages was increased in England and Wales, Northern Ireland has reviewed and increased it twice. In Scotland, sums are calculated on a case-by-case basis, which is much fairer,” said Mr Dixon.
The statutory sum for bereavement damages in Northern Ireland will be £15,100 from 1 May*. Damages in England and Wales have remained at £12,980 for six years.
“APIL pushed for an increase in Northern Ireland and continues to raise the issue in England and Wales,” said Mr Dixon. “The whole law on bereavement damages needs an overhaul to bring it up to date and put an end to this lottery”.
APIL commissioned consumer research in 2013 to discover public attitudes to bereavement damages. Of the 2,000 people surveyed, more than half thought bereavement damages should be more than £100,000; nearly three-quarters thought bereavement damages should be awarded on a case by case basis and, when told the level of damages available for a seriously injured thumb (between £14,000 and £25,000 at the time of the survey) almost three-quarters of respondents thought damages for the grief and trauma associated with a bereavement should be higher.