A draft order has been laid before Parliament which will permit a bereaved unmarried partner to claim damages for bereavement on the death of his or her partner.
A bereavement damages award is currently capped at £12,980 and is available as a separate category of damages in any claim brought for a wrongful act causing the death a loved one.
Currently, bereavement damages are only available under section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 to the wife or husband of the deceased. It is unfortunate that this change to the legislation was first recommended by the Law Commission as long ago as 1999 and was only approved following a judicial review resulting in a declaration of incompatibility between the legislation and the European Convention on human rights in 2017.
This change in the law is part of a slow process recognising the growing trend of long-term committed relationship between two people outside of marriage. Most recently, In 2017 and 2018, two separate judicial reviews identified incompatibilities between the convention on human rights and public sector pension rules requiring the pension holder to make a written nomination for their unmarried partner to claim even where the couple have been in a long-term committed relationship and unaware of the rule. Consequently, unmarried partners are now entitled to death benefits under public sector pension schemes whether there has been written nomination or not.
David Cobern is a director and solicitor who specialises in supporting unmarried couples with the financial aspects of family law. If you would like to discuss this article any other family law legal matter then please do get in touch by telephone 01392 421777 or by email [email protected]