The changes will come into force on Friday 1 May 2020 following The Damages for Bereavement (Variation of Sum) England and Wales) Order 2020. The increase applies only to deaths in England and causes of action in England and Wales which occur after this date.
Under the law as it stands damages for bereavement can only be paid to a surviving spouse/civil partner of the deceased and, if the deceased was a minor, their biological parents. The award, set out in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976, is a one off lump sum and is shared if more than one person is entitled to this aspect of the claim i.e. if both parents claim they will receive £6,490.00 each.
Further changes to the law to enable cohabitees who have lived in the same household for more than two years to be able to claim, remain outstanding following the case of Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust & Others 
Sarah Cunliffe, a solicitor in Shoosmiths Personal Injury team welcomes the increase in damages.
“The previous award had been in place since 1 April 2013 and therefore damages for those in England and Wales were behind Northern Ireland whose loved ones have, since May 2019, received bereavement damages of £15,100.00. Although no amount of money can ever truly compensate a bereaved family, this increase is welcomed,” she said.
As well as seeking bereavement damages other losses and expenses can be sought on behalf of the deceased.
The law concerning who can make a fatal accident claim is governed by two Acts of Parliament:
a) Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934;
b) Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (as amended).
The Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 preserves the claim of the injured/deceased person. In essence, any claims they could have made survive for their estate to pursue. The estate i.e. the executors of a will, or, those entitled to claim under intestacy rules, can claim for items such as pain, suffering and loss of amenity, lost earnings, care, funeral expenses. The estate must bring any claim within 3 years of the injured persons death, or date of knowledge.
A claim under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 includes the bereavement damages above. In addition, if a person was dependent upon the deceased financially,or, if they relied upon their services then that dependent can also bring a claim. The legal definition of a dependent is wide ranging and can include, in addition to spouses and children, partners living in the same household as the deceased, grandparents, brothers or sisters, aunts or uncles and those treated by the deceased as their child. The dependent must however prove the dependency and that any services lost had a financial value.
This article is now out of date as of 1 May 2020: https://seriousinjury.shoosmiths.co.uk/personal-injury/fatal-accident-claims
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2023