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Cohabitees seeking justice from a fatal accident claim need specialist legal advice

19th February 2018

The devastating loss of a loved one killed through someone else’s fault is a situation that, frankly, our law struggles to deal with: what value should be put on the loss of a life, and how should compensation be calculated?

The dreadful answer is that, although financial costs such as funeral expenses can successfully be claimed, in law a life in itself has no financial value – and while administrators of a deceased’s estate can claim compensation from a negligent driver’s insurance company for pre-death pain and suffering, this does not apply in cases of instant death.

The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 provides for an award of bereavement grief damages of £12,980 to be paid to a child’s parents or the deceased’s spouse or civil partner. The Act also allows loved ones, including cohabitees of two years or more, to claim for the loss of financial dependency upon the deceased. This allows specified family members to claim compensation for loss of their loved one’s earnings and services such as child care, gardening and DIY.

The two years’ living together rule may appear arbitrary, but the law has long wrestled with the whole issue of compensating for the loss of someone in the context of a strong and loving relationship.

Over many years we have represented grieving loved ones who have lived unmarried with their partner for just under two years before their death. Family and friends will likely have seen them as a strong and loving couple and perhaps they had children together – however, their loss is not recognised in law.

In November 2017 Jakki Smith took her case to the Court of Appeal. She sought bereavement compensation following the death of her partner of many years, claiming the exclusion of cohabitees of less than two years was discriminatory and in breach of her human rights. The Court of Appeal agreed, although she was not compensated for her grief and the loss of her soulmate because her claim was against the National Health Service; the appeal court also ruled the NHS was under no obligation to pay any more than the statutory minimum – a Pyrrhic victory, therefore.

Fatal accident claims are often complex and technical, requiring specialist legal expertise in order to secure financial peace of mind, and justice. For more information and expert advice on a fatal accident claim, call the George Ide team on 01243 786668 or email us at info@georgeide.co.uk

Paul Fretwell. Partner, personal injury department.

Family Law, General, George Ide, News, Personal Injury Blog
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