Compensation for bereavement: Unmarried woman wins legal battle

Ben Pepper - Associate Solicitor the Complex Injury team

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Ben Pepper

A woman has won the right to claim for her bereavement, following the death of her long-term partner.

In 2011, Jakki Smith’s partner, John Bulloch, underwent an operation while on holiday in Turkey to remove a benign tumor.  An infection was negligently missed by medics and he died at the age of 66.

Historically, only a very limited number of close relatives of deceased victims have been able to claim for bereavement suffered after losing a loved one.  Until now, those limited relatives were the spouse or civil partner of the deceased and the parents of a deceased child under the age of 18.

Jakki and John were not married.  However, they had been in a relationship for 16 years.  Jakki successfully argued that the law was in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

The current level of bereavement compensation in England and Wales is £12,980, for deaths that occurred after 1st April 2013 and it is this sum that Jakki has now been awarded by the Court of Appeal.

The bereavement award is considered by the majority of the population to be too low and the number of people who are entitled to the award is also deemed to be too few.

By comparison, in Scotland the award is far greater and far more people are eligible, with judges considering both on a case by case basis.  At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we are passionate about the reform of this area of the law.

It is my hope that Jakki Smith’s case will pave the way towards the system in England and Wales resembling the Scottish system more closely.


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