The Negligence and Damages Bill

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The Negligence and Damages Bill recently passed its first reading unchallenged in the House of Commons.

The Bill was introduced by MP Andy McDonald who seeks to find a ‘fairer and more sensible way’ to help bereaved people and people who have suffered psychiatric harm after witnessing the death or injury of a loved one.

What does the Negligence and Damages Bill say?

Mr McDonald wants the law to reflect ‘developments in medical science which demonstrate that psychiatric illness can be as debilitating as physical injury’.

As the current law stands generally only parents of a child or a spouse or civil partner of an individual who has wrongfully died are eligible to make a claim for bereavement damages. The maximum a claim can amount to is £12,980.

The Private Members Bill aims to increase the statutory list of relationships entitled to make a claim for bereavement and the amount which they are eligible to receive.

This change intends to place England and Wales on a similar standing to Scotland where the law which already provides for a larger category of eligible people entitled to apply for compensation for bereavement, with no limit on the amount that can be awarded.

The Bill has gained support from the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) who commissioned research into the topic in the autumn of 2013.

Richard Barcan commented:

This Bill represents a very real step towards obtaining justice for innocent victims of negligence.

One of the hardest things any personal injury or medical negligence lawyer ever has to do is to tell a wife who has lost her husband in a road accident that she will only be awarded a token £12,980 for her bereavement. Or a parent who has lost a 19 yr old child that the law does not recognise their bereavement at all. Or tell a son who has watched his parent die in pain due to a missed diagnosis that the law will not compensate him for the severe depression he has suffered as a result.

I really hope this Bill will become law so that some of the irrational and unjust restrictions that have applied for many years are removed and clients will no longer be left feeling belittled, insulted and under compensated.”

The Bill is anticipated to have its second reading debate on 4th December 2015.

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