Bereaved people north of the border are treated more fairly than those in England and Wales when claiming damages for their loss, according to views expressed in new research.
In the survey, commissioned by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) 80 per cent said the Scottish system for bereavement damages is fairer, prompting calls for the law in the rest of the UK to be reviewed.
“For years we have been calling for the law to be changed in this area, and this new survey has shown just how far out of step with public opinion the system for awarding bereavement damages really is,” said Matthew Stockwell, president of APIL.
“Everyone knows, of course, that nothing can ever replace a loved one who has died,” he went on. “But it’s important to remember that we are talking here about bereavement caused by the negligence of another party. The fact that the death is needless can only increase the sense of pain and loss.
“At the moment in England and Wales, this is recognised by payment of a fixed sum of £12,980, paid by those who have caused the death. In Scotland, cases are taken on their merits, damages are generally higher, and the law is much more flexible about who can receive them.”
The vast majority of those surveyed think the fixed sum is not high enough, with 57 per cent saying a figure of more than £100,000 would be appropriate. Many respondents also suggested the list of people who should be eligible to receive bereavement damages should be extended to include, for example, the parents of a child who is killed, regardless of the child’s age; children (including adopted children) of the person killed, regardless of the child’s age; the co-habitee of the person killed, and the fiancé of the person killed.
“None of these people are eligible for bereavement damages in England and Wales, while most of them are entitled to claim damages in Scotland,” said Matthew. “It is particularly distasteful to me that parents of a child under the age of 18 should be entitled to bereavement damages but, once the child is 18, they are not.. It is unnatural for a parent to suffer the loss of a child, and that loss is no less if the child happens to be over the age of 18.
“The law of bereavement damages is currently a postcode lottery and this needs to change.”