In news that was easy to miss this week, the bereavement award under s.1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 has been increased from £12,980 to £15,210. The increase, introduced by the Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) (England and Wales) Order 2020, will apply only to causes of action which accrue on or after 1 May 2020 – so there is no need to hastily review ongoing cases! The award was last increased on 1 April 2013.
Currently, only the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, or the parents of a deceased unmarried child, are eligible for the award. The Court of Appeal, in Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust  EWCA Civ 1916, held that this state of affairs was incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, read in conjunction with Article 8. The Draft Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order 2020 therefore proposes extending eligibility to the cohabiting partner of the deceased, defined as any person who –
- As living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death; and
- Had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least two years before that date; and
- Was living during the whole of that period as the wife or husband or civil partner of the deceased.
Where more than one person is eligible (for example a spouse from whom the deceased was separated and a cohabiting partner), the award will be shared equally between them.