Fatal accidents and statutory categories of claimants

The right to claim damages for loss of financial dependency and for statutory bereavement damages are set out separately in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. Only those who fall within the categories listed in the Act are eligible. The courts have consistently refused to widen these statutory categories, most recently in Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which was decided on 8 September 2016.

It is difficult now to see any change here without statutory intervention. That looks quite unlikely, given that the Negligence and Damages Bill – a private member’s Bill in the 2015/16 Parliament that sought to effect changes to the law on fatal claims- simply lapsed without Government support.

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Compensating for fatal accidents and for indirect mental illness

If you needed a reminder of the controversy associated with different levels of fatal accident damages across the constituent jurisdictions of the UK, The Times’ daily legal bulletin The Brief today includes a comment piece by APIL President Jonathan Wheeler entitled “MPs must increase bereavement damages”. His article also address perceived deficiencies in how English law controls liability for secondary psychiatric harm.

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