In personal injury actions involving a fatality a Bereavement Award of £12,980 is awarded to two classes of people: a spouse/civil partner of the deceased or the parents of a minor if the deceased was under the age of 18. This award is considered a symbolic sum to reflect the loss and "does not seek to reflect the emotional or economic loss caused by the death."
A recent case before the High Court held that the denial of a Bereavement Award to the cohabitee of the deceased was not a breach of their human rights. The main issue guiding the decision being that such a situation was never envisaged when the law was introduced in 1976. Rather oddly, although not entitled to claim a Bereavement Award, a cohabitee does fall within the category of dependants and can make a dependency claim if they can prove they were financially supported by the deceased.
This decision highlights the extremely archaic nature of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 and, to quote directly from the law whilst an award for the death of a 'legitimate' minor is available to both parents for the death of an illegimate minor the award is only available to the mother. This could lead to a situation where a man could lose both his cohabitating partner and child in a car accident and yet not be entitled to any Bereavement Award.
It is to be hoped that a Bereavement Award will soon be made available for all deaths whether of a spouse, civil partner, mother, father, son or daughter. It is still only a symbolic award but whether a child is 16 or 26 it is impossible to say that the loss of one is any easier or harder to bear than the other.