Ringrose Law: Lawyers in Newark for personal injuries and medical negligence
A law firm in Lincolnshire says the time has come for the amount of compensation, paid to bereaving families of fatal accident victims, to be increased.
Lawyers from Ringrose Law have lent their voice to other personal injury and medical negligence lawyers across the UK in support of such an increase that would essentially mean an amendment in parliament to the current Fatal Accidents Act bill.
The fixed lump sum (bereavement award) that is paid out as a result of somebody dying from negligence - as a result of a fatal road accident, an accident at work or even negligence from medical treatment - has been £12,980 for the last six years.
“While we understand that compensation is a secondary thought for bereaving families, it still nonetheless ensures financial stability and can help relieve the financial worry and stress that comes with losing a loved one,” said John Knight, Head of the Personal Injury Department at Ringrose Law in Newark.
“This is especially apparent if the deceased was the main breadwinner.
“I think the time has come to start asking questions over whether the current amount awarded by virtue of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is adequate in this day and age.”
A similar debate has taken place in the past in Northern Ireland and only recently, it was decided that the fixed statutory sum be increased £15,100.
“It’s not the biggest sum but still an increase nevertheless,” he continued.
“Scotland has a different system in that it doesn’t have a fixed sum but calculates the award on a case by case basis.
“This is not without its difficulties, as how can we value one life against another?”
So has the time come in England to review and potentially revise the statutory award to make it a more realistic acknowledgement?
Or is it fickle to pin a price on an individual’s life?
Some people hold the view that the British legal system does not exist to impose ‘punitive’ damages, as is the case in the United States.
Punitive damages are those which do not necessarily reflect the actual nature and extent of a person’s injuries and financial losses, but are extra damages which are far higher, with the intention of punishing the person who has caused the injury or death.
This is seen a lot where companies and corporations cause widespread injury and deaths where they manufacture dangerous or defective products.
In addition to the bereavement award, it is also possible to claim compensation for the loss of ‘dependency’ due to a death.
This would cover, for instance, loss of earnings of the deceased person and the cost of their funeral.
In cases of high earners with children who die at a young age, the claim can run into many thousands, sometimes even hundreds of thousands as it has to reflect the financial loss to the family where they were and would have continued to be dependent on that person’s earnings.
Along with the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1943 which allows claims to be brought on behalf of a deceased person’s estate where appropriate, the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 is complex and described in some legal circles as being out of date.
“Much has changed in terms of relationships during that time and we believe that the current legislation needs to be revised,” said John.
“In fact, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers are supporting a review.”
Those left behind after a death will almost certainly need financial assistance to help them through and, in appropriate cases, that can be in the form of compensation.
If you find yourself in the sad position where a member of your family has passed away, possibly through negligence or an accident, then do not hesitate to contact us for advice,” added John
“Given that every life is priceless, we need to ask if what is awarded now is befitting?
“A real person - not a number - has had their life cut short and taken away from family and friends. Surely that must count for something?”