Today’s society sees many families living as, what is termed, a ‘modern family’ where couples simply cohabit without getting married. Whilst this is a widely accepted and preferred way of living for many, when something goes wrong the law is not always there to help out.
In 1976 the Fatal Accidents Act was amended to include damages for bereavement. However, in England and Wales the list of people that are applicable remains limited to husband, wife, and parents of an unmarried child under 18 years, or the mother of an illegitimate child under 18.
As the ‘archaic’ legal system currently stands, if you are not married then you are unable to obtain damages for bereavement should some negligent act by another cause the death of your loved one. Not even an engagement or an intention to marry can help you receive any financial comfort for your loss.
In Scotland, however, judges are free to decide what damages should be awarded to who.
Around 80% of the surveyed population in England and Wales believe the Scottish system is fairer than the one currently in place for England and Wales.
Surely, it would make more sense for bereavement damages to be awarded on a case by case basis? A resounding 74% of respondents in a survey by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers think this would make more sense too.
Any compensation for psychiatric harm is also decided on how close you are to the scene of the incident, and not on how close you were to the person involved in the accident. If it were your brother, mother, father, or sister involved in an accident wouldn’t you be traumatised if you found out, say, on the news?
Psychiatric harm is considered less harmful than physical injury yet it has been proven that it can be just as debilitating. Therefore, compensation should be equally available to help those suffering from psychiatric harm.
Whilst there are currently no plans to amend and improve the law in this area, we can only hope that the law is brought up to date and considers the modern way of life and begins to appreciate how traumatic it is to see someone you love be killed or suffer life changing injuries.
Author: Emily Woodhouse