Grieving families are still denied justice in Northern Ireland despite an increase in compensation, lawyers have warned.
“When someone is killed because of negligence, perhaps at work or on the road, some relatives are eligible for a statutory compensation payment for their bereavement. In Northern Ireland, this sum has increased this week from £15,100 to £17,200,” said Oonagh McClure, Thompsons Ni's regional managing partner and fellow of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), which represents injured people and bereaved families commented.
“The Department of Justice’s commitment to making inflationary increases to the level of damages is welcome, but significant reform of the law is needed to extend the group of family members who are eligible to claim bereavement compensation.
“Currently only bereaved spouses, civil partners, and parents of under-18s are eligible for statutory bereavement damages, while other relationships are disregarded. For example, partners may have built a whole life together but because they are not married, they are not eligible. The approach is incredibly unfair and is out of touch with society today,” said Ms McClure.
“A sibling or step-parent might be the closest relative someone has and the loss could leave them utterly bereft. Even a child who has lost a parent because of someone else’s negligence is not eligible for bereavement damages.”
“The system is much fairer in Scotland, where there is no problem with making case-by-case decisions and paying meaningful amounts of compensation to people who are bereaved because of the needless deaths of their loved ones,” she said.