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Bill Seeks Greater Fairness for Bereaved Families

An MP in England has published a Private Members’ Bill that calls for greater fairness for bereaved people and victims of psychiatric harm in England and Wales.

The Negligence and Damages Bill has been introduced by Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald and is supported by national not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

“In England and Wales the laws which are supposed to help both bereaved families and people suffering from psychiatric harm are woefully inflexible,” commented APIL president Jonathan Wheeler.

“The relatives of people who are killed wrongfully, at work for example, can make a claim for statutory bereavement damages of just £12,980,” he said. “Such a low sum means that in England and Wales it is actually cheaper to kill someone than it is to maim them. Also, only spouses and parents of children under 18-years-old are eligible to receive bereavement damages. In reality, the tragic loss of a child does not diminish once the child has passed his or her 18th birthday." 

“In Scotland the system is much fairer as each case is judged on its own merits,” he added. “Bereavement damages in the UK are a lottery based on where the death happens.”

The Bill also addresses long-standing concerns about how people are treated when they suffer psychological illness after the needless death or serious injury of their loved ones. The law in this area emerged after the Hillsborough disaster 26 years ago, says APIL, and has remained unchanged ever since.

Mr McDonald’s Private Members’ Bill will change the law by extending the statutory list of relationships in which it is assumed there is a close tie of love and affection. It will also extend the list of family members who should be eligible for bereavement damages to include, among others, civil partners and children over the age of 18.

“People claiming compensation simply want to put their lives back on track,” said Mr Wheeler. “These events should never happen in the first place. But when they do happen they should be treated with fairness and understanding by the justice system.”

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