Is It Time for Legislative Change for Fatal Accidents Act Claims?

In the modern setting where marriage and cohabitation boundaries are blurred, it seems anachronistic and downright unfair to have to advise the client who has lost their partner and provider for the children that those children cannot recover from the person who caused the death damages for that specific financial loss of dependency.

This arises when your client has been living with a partner for a number of years, they are not married, but the deceased partner has assumed a financial responsibility for the survivor’s children from a previous relationship.

As they are not married and as they are not in a civil partnership, under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 those children, as dependent upon that support, cannot make a claim.

The partner can, but any financial loss to the children would be unrecoverable.

This is difficult to explain, as what you are talking about is a family but the law in this regard does not recognise it as such.

The Law Commission’s report into “Claims for Wrongful Death” in November 1999 recommended that there be added to the list of dependents any individual who was being wholly or partly maintained by the deceased. Nearly 14 years later this has still not been done.

The position is even more restricted with regard to the bereavement award under the Fatal Accidents Act. Cohabitees cannot recover this award which is limited to the husband or wife or civil partner of the deceased, and the parents of an unmarried minor if legitimate; his or her mother if not.

This stagnation of the categories of dependant does not fit with the realities of the modern family. With all the media attention on fairness and equality within the family partnership this appears to have been overlooked. 

Isn't it time that this discrimination was addressed?