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Bereavement damages: the injustice of UK law

Posted: 01/11/2018

This year’s Pan European Organisation of Personal Injury Lawyers Conference, which took place in Paris in September, highlighted the urgent need for a review of UK law on the damages awarded to relatives following a fatal accident.

Although the method for calculation of bereavement damages varies greatly throughout Europe, UK awards are significantly less generous and extend to fewer relatives than in other EU member states.

In Greece, the 'family' is entitled to claim damages, which includes blood and in law relatives. This can be extended to step children in exceptional circumstances. A fiancé and an unborn child are also allowed to claim due to the absence of the deceased relative in their life.

In Spain, surviving spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings or people who have lived together for five years may claim compensation, although this can be excluded if a lack of affection is proven, for example, if a father has abandoned his child.

In France, parties can claim 'sorrow’s valuation' which is presumed to exist in families. This extends to parents, spouses, children, siblings and grandparents.

Legislation is being introduced in the Netherlands from 1 January 2019 to ensure that bereavement damages are awarded to parents and also to the children of a deceased.

In Germany, funeral costs are reimbursed to the person within the family who has made the arrangements. Third parties who were dependent on the direct victim can also claim for further financial support. A new law has been introduced which allows 'close persons' to claim for bereavement damages provided the death occurred on 22 July 2017 or later. There are no specific limits and the level of award is instead negotiated between the claimant and the defendant.

The table below summarises the likely amounts that would ordinarily be awarded in each country.

English law is the least generous by some margin since a child remains unable to claim damages for bereavement and it is only the spouse who is eligible to claim. The award to a surviving spouse is also much lower than in other jurisdictions.





 €100,000 - 150,000

(including damages for  psychiatric injury)

 €100,000 - 150,000

(including damages for psychiatric injury)





 €20,000 - 30,000  (exceptionally €50,000)

 €25,000 - 30,000 (exceptionally €50,000)










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