Yesterday a woman in Lancashire won her legal battle for better rights for unmarried people who lose their long-term partners. Jakki Smith’s partner of 16 years died in 2011 when an infection was missed by medics, however she was denied bereavement damages.
Nicola Winslett, a senior solicitor within our medical negligence department commented on the case “This is a long overdue review and should bring the law in line with social behaviour. Co-habiting was the fastest growing family type in the UK according to the Office of National Statistics in 2015, accounting for 16.4% of all family units in the UK. With nearly 3 million opposite sex and 84,000 same sex co-habiting couples in 2015 this indicates the size of the population affected.
This case brings the bereavement award, which is awarded by the Fatal Accidents Act 1974, in line with the Law Reform Misc Provisions Act 1934 which allows a co-habitee of 2 years to claim compensation against the party who may have caused the death of their loved one for the loss of financial support and care. Until now those persons have not been able to claim the statutory award for the bereavement.
On a practical note the probate laws will still present challenges as the surviving co-habitee is not the “first in-line” to bring a claim for the pain and suffering of their loved one prior to death unless the deceased left a will but yesterday’s development is potentially a step towards a more equal future.”