Fairness for families of people injured or killed – why the law must change – APIL

Fairness for families of people injured or killed – why the law must change

The law in England and Wales treats bereaved families like second class citizens when they need to claim compensation after the death of a loved one who has been killed simply because someone was negligent.

Find out more about APIL's general election manifesto here.

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Losing a loved one is always traumatic, especially when the loss is a result of negligence.

The current law in England and Wales is not fair to all those who suffer such a loss.

Stephanie and Jack met at university 30 years ago and have two children together.

Jack was killed due to negligence in the workplace. Under the current law Stephanie cannot obtain bereavement damages because she and Jack never married.

Charles and Susie were engaged and blissfully happy. A month before they were due to marry, Susie was involved in a fatal car crash. Now Charles cannot obtain bereavement damages.

Our view of the modern family has changed hugely over the years, but the law in England and Wales has failed to keep pace with this change

Scottish judges are already free to decide how much bereavement damages should be awarded and to whom. A survey by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers found that eighty per cent believe this system is fairer.

The same survey showed almost three quarters believe bereavement damages should be awarded on a case by case basis.

At the moment, you can receive more damages for a seriously injured thumb than a bereavement – nearly two-thirds of people feel this is wrong.

Over 80% feel people should be entitled to more than £15,000 in bereavement damages.

Fifty-seven per cent think bereavement damages should be over £100,000. The current level is just £12,980.

The law on psychiatric harm also needs reform.

Kathy was very close to her younger brother Tim. Tim was paralysed in a train crash. Kathy found out about the crash on the news and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Under the current law Kathy cannot make a claim because she was not close enough to the incident.

APIL believes the law urgently needs reform.

Firstly, the law relating to bereavement damages must be made fairer – it should not be cheaper to kill than to maim.

The law affecting those who suffer psychiatric harm after the death or injury of a loved one also needs to be brought up to date.

Specifically, there should be a new list of relationships, where it is assumed there is a close tie without the injured person having to prove it.

The legal requirement for those who have suffered a 'nervous shock’ should be abandoned; along with the requirement for the injured person to be close to the event in time and space.

People injured, or the loved ones of those who are killed, through no fault of their own have a right to justice.

Making the law in England and Wales fairer will allow all victims and their loved ones the justice they deserve.