An unmarried partner will finally be able to receive a statutory Bereavement Award following the death of their partner as a result of medical negligence, industrial disease or an accident (subject to certain requirements). As the law currently stands, an unmarried partner is not entitled to receipt of the Award, which is set at £15,210.00.

In the case of Jacqueline Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Others [2017] the Court of Appeal made a declaration of incompatibility in relation to section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act and that it was contrary to Article 14, in conjunction with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order 2020, which comes into force on the 6th October 2020 inserts “cohabiting partner” into the Fatal Accidents Act.

A cohabiting partner is defined as a person who –

(a) Was living with the deceased in the same household immediately before the date of the death,

(b) Had been living with the deceased in the same household for at least 2 years before that date, and

(c) Was living during the whole of that period as the wife or husband or civil partner of the deceased.

This is a welcome move after a long period of inequality between married and unmarried partners. However, the change does not apply retrospectively and so, will not apply to deaths that occurred before the 6th October 2020.

A Further Change

Article 2(4) amends section 1A(4) of the Act to provide that, where more than one person is entitled to an award of bereavement damages, the award must be shared equally between them.

This will be relevant in the following circumstances:

(a) Where the deceased has not divorced and might have both an eligible husband, wife or civil partner and a cohabitee who is entitled, or

(b) In limited circumstances where a deceased minor, may have been cohabiting with someone prior to their death and both the parents and cohabitee are entitled to the award. In these circumstances the award would have to be divided equally between the cohabitee and the parents.

At Farleys, we have a dedicated Litigation Team with specialist knowledge of handling claims involving fatalities. If you require any assistance, or if you would like to speak to a specialist to see how we may be able to help you, please contact us on 0845 287 0939 or contact us via our website.