“What price a life?” – Jonathan Wheeler in The Times over the sorry state of bereavement damages in this country

Jonathan Wheeler - Managing Partner

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Jonathan Wheeler

Sir, It cannot be right that it is cheaper to kill people in England and Wales than it is to maim them (“£13,000 payout for a dead child is an insult, say mothers”, report, Sept 17).The law of damages places a higher value on a badly injured thumb than on a life. Bereaved relatives receive statutory damages of £12,980 after the wrongful death of a loved one, compared with between £14,000 and £25,000 awarded to someone with a badly injured thumb.

In a just society, the law needs to show much greater understanding to bereaved families. England and Wales has a production-line approach, awarding a prescriptive amount to a restricted list of eligible relatives, excluding unmarried partners, step-parents, and children who have passed their 18th birthdays. In Scotland, by contrast, the amount awarded relies on legal precedent and a proper examination of the closeness of the bereaved to the deceased, to ensure that any payments are fair.

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