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Move towards cohabitees receiving same bereavement compensation as spouses

In important steps towards ensuring bereaved cohabitees of more than two years receive the same statutory compensation as married people and civil partners, the draft Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (Remedial) Order 2020 has been welcomed by the parliamentary Human Rights Committee.

Previously, in cases including awards to partners of those who have died from mesothelioma, a long-term cohabitee was denied the same statutory bereavement compensation as a married person following a successful civil claim, meaning a bereaved cohabitee would receive £12,980 less than a bereaved parent of a child under 18, spouse or civil partner.

This gap in the law was identified by the Court of Appeal in 2017 (Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals [2017] EWCA Civ1916) when it upheld that the denial of damages to a claimant whose cohabiting partner of 11 years died was a breach of their right to private and family life.

MPs and Peers have however suggested that the current draft is susceptible to changes to prevent further human rights challenges by removing the two-year requirement and references to ‘illegitimate children’.

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