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Parental Bereavement Damages – National Bereaved Parent Day – 3rd July 2024

National Bereaved Parents Day will take place on Wednesday 3rd July to raise awareness for all parents who have lost a baby or child of any age, and from any circumstance. This day honours bereaved parents from all walks of life.

When a child has died due to the negligence of another you may be entitled to bereavement damages. Whilst the life of someone can’t be valued in monetary terms, compensation is the only tool the law can use to reduce the burden of loss.

How can Oliver & Co help?

There are two main legislations with England and Wales which relate to fatal incidents such as death due to medical negligence:

Under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Previsions) Act 1934, the deceased is entitled to a continuation of their existing rights from the time of injury up until their death. This includes those who die later from their injuries. In this a claim may be made for pain and suffering, loss of amenity and loss of income during that time period. Any compensation awarded will be passed to the beneficiaries of the deceased.

Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 claims can be made for the family and estate of the deceased to compensate them for their pain and suffering. In England and Wales, statutory bereavement damages are fixed at £15,120, which has been highly criticised as outdated, rigid and discriminatory. This Act also allows for payment of funeral expenses and dependency claims.

Who can claim parental bereavement damages?

In England and Wales current legislation entitles you to parental bereavement award if you are:

  • Parents, where the deceased is a ‘legitimate’ minor; or
  • A mother, where the deceased is ‘not a legitimate’ minor.

Legislation excludes bereavement damages for the unmarried father of a child under the age of 18, parents of an adult child who is over the age of 18.

This calls to question is this fair on fathers?

Are we ready for a reform in the law?

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) are campaigning  for England and Wales to mirror the legislation of Scottish laws on bereavement damages. They campaign that the current damages cap of £15,120 are considered to be a “token of grief and sorrow after a wrongful death”.

In Scotland, cases are seen on an individual basis. There is no cap on the amount of compensation that can be claims and the awards are generally higher than in the UK. ALL members of the immediate family are taken into account, and so the Scottish system would look at the impact that person had on their whole family and judge each respective relationship on its own merit, rather than award nominal damages awarded.

APIL’s head of campaigns and communications questions “why should it be cheaper to kill someone negligently in Manchester, Birmingham, and London than it is in Glasgow, Aberdeen, and West Lothian?” and she questions the unfairness that “the law does not even recognise the closeness of an unmarried father to his children”. More than 51% of children are born to unwed parents in the UK, this calls to question whether legislation is outdated and unfair when it comes to grieving fathers. Should a father’s grief be called into question, just because they do not live with the child full time? In this society where families are blended, should stepfathers and stepmothers not be entitled to grieve for their stepchild if they were to die by a negligence act?

It is argued that legislation should not be protective of a potential ‘flood gate’ to the courts. Everybody should be able to claim what they are entitled to.  

Case study

Oliver & Co were able to help a mother who was pregnant with her first child. She had no issues with the pregnancy until the last few weeks. Baby presented as breach with reduced fetal movements. The checks on the baby were fine and a sweep was not possible as mum’s cervix was closed.

Mum noticed slight vaginal bleeding and went into hospital and showed a sanitary pad and was told her level of bleeding was normal. Mum started to cramp and couldn’t feel the baby’s movement so she was told to count the baby’s movements over the next 2 hours. She only felt the baby move 10 times. She called the hospital as she was experiencing strong and more frequent contractions, she was told to use a TENS machine and take a warm bath. The TENS did not help, and Mum started vomiting. She called again and was told to eat something. She went into hospital to attempt another sweep, she was given analgesia and an anti-sickness injection before being discharged home.

After going back to the hospital later on that night, Mum was placed in a birthing pool and noticed a yellow substance which she was told was meconium but advised it was fine and to keep an eye on any changes in colour. Mum was advised that she was scheduled for an induction the next day and was discharged again.

At home mum slept and had a bath, she noticed the movements of the baby were reduced over the morning. She called the hospital due to reduced movement and was told to have a fizzy sugary drink and to lie on her side and to count the movements again over 2 hours.

Mum went back to the hospital; they were unable to find baby’s heartbeat and unfortunately mum was told that the baby had no heartbeat. She asked for a C-section but was refused. Unfortunately, Mum gave birth to a stillborn baby.

She was told months later that sepsis was the cause of death and was told that if she had been kept in hospital and not sent home, they could have saved the baby. A review found multiple failings by the Defendant hospital.

We were able to achieve bereavement damages for mum even though she was technically not entitled due to the child being stillborn.

How can we help you?

If you, or a loved one, have experienced the death of a child due to the negligence of another then we may be able to help. Our medical negligence team benefits from in-house medical knowledge from our head of department, Linda Schermer-Jones, who is dual qualified doctor and solicitor. We therefore have the ability to quickly and efficiently assess areas of potential negligence you, or a loved one, may have suffered.

Please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialised team members on 01244 354688 for advice or assistance.

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