Bereavement damages in Northern Ireland set to increase

Bereavement damages in Northern Ireland will increase on May 1 following a move by the Northern Ireland Department of Justice.

The statutory sum for bereavement damages will be £15,100 while damages in England and Wales have remained at £12,980 for the past six years.

Lawyers have warned that justice for families of people killed by negligence in England and Wales trails behind the rest of the UK.

Nick Davis, managing director at NV Legal, said: “This is welcome news, although the value of statutory bereavement awards is still seen by some families as an insult for the loss of a loved one fatally injured through no fault of their own.

“The fact that the awards are even less in England and Wales only accentuates this and the sooner the government review the law in this area, the better.”

The move follows a successful campaign by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) in 2016, which resulted in an initial increase in bereavement damages from £11,800 to £14,200.

Brett Dixon, president of APIL said: “The family of a man killed at work is treated very differently depending on which jurisdiction he was in when he died. It’s a broadening gulf.

“Some relatives can make a legal claim for a fixed statutory payment of bereavement damages, which is supposed to make amends for the fact that their loved ones should still be alive.

“Since the last time the level of bereavement damages was increased in England and Wales, Northern Ireland has reviewed and increased it twice. In Scotland, sums are calculated on a case-by-case basis, which is much fairer.”

APIL commissioned consumer research in 2013 to discover public attitudes to bereavement damages. Of the 2,000 people surveyed, more than half thought bereavement damages should be more than £100,000; nearly three-quarters thought bereavement damages should be awarded on a case by case basis and, when told the level of damages available for a seriously injured thumb (between £14,000 and £25,000 at the time of the survey) almost three-quarters of respondents thought damages for the grief and trauma associated with a bereavement should be higher.

Dixon added: ““APIL pushed for an increase in Northern Ireland and continues to raise the issue in England and Wales. The whole law on bereavement damages needs an overhaul to bring it up to date and put an end to this lottery”.

The Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) Order (Northern Ireland) 2019 is available here

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