Cohabitants Entitled to Bereavement Damages

20th February 2018 By Arman Khosravi

The legal implications of cohabitation are often poorly understood by those who choose to live together outside of marriage or civil partnership, and the lack of protection for cohabitants often comes as an unpleasant surprise to many, especially when a relationship ends or one of the partners dies.

Given that there are more than three million cohabiting couples in the UK, this lack of awareness produces dozens of court cases annually as long-term cohabitants find they must fight to try to realise their expectations of their legal rights.

However, a recent decision of the Court of Appeal will give some comfort to long-term cohabitants as regards entitlement to bereavement damages. These have always been able to be claimed by spouses and civil partners, but not ‘common law’ spouses.

The case revolved around the death of a man who had lived with his partner for 16 years. He died as a result of admitted negligence and a successful claim for compensation was made against the NHS trust responsible. The claim was possible because the couple had lived together for more than two years. His partner was not entitled to bereavement damages, however, because they were not married. The Fatal Accidents Act 1976 provides for bereavement damages to be paid to spouses, civil partners and dependants, but excludes in effect cohabitants who are not dependent on their partner.

The woman’s claim was made against the Secretary of State for Justice on the ground that the exclusion was discriminatory and a violation of her human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court of Appeal agreed. Cohabitation is a normal form of family life and, indeed, is the fastest growing family type in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Source: Concious

Latest News

Challenge to Will's Validity Rejected by High Court

12th April, 2024 By

The best way to ensure your assets will be distributed as you wish is to have your will professionally drafted by a qualified solicitor. In a recent case, a challenge to the validity of an elderly man's will was dismissed by the High Court. The man had previously made a will in 2011, leaving most of his estate equally to his three children. In 2018, by which time one of his sons had predeceased him, he made a further will, leaving the residue of his estate to his other son...

Defiance of Family Court Orders Will Always End Badly

10th April, 2024 By

Custodial sentences very rarely come into play in the family courts. Where there have been repeated breaches of court orders, however, judges may have little choice but to clamp down. This was illustrated in the High Court during committal proceedings that stemmed from a child custody dispute. The background to the case involved contested proceedings between the father and mother of a young child. These concluded with a court order establishing that the child – a daughter – would live with the mother. Three months later the daughter travelled with...

Claim for SDLT Relief on Annex Unsuccessful

8th April, 2024 By

When buying a property consisting of more than one residence, it may be possible to claim multiple dwellings relief (MDR) against Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). However, there are certain conditions that must be met for an MDR claim to succeed, as a recent case illustrates. A property was purchased for £1.8 million. Prior to the purchase, the buyer had agreed with the seller that he would be allowed to carry out works to construct a self-contained annex at the property. The buyer's SDLT return included a claim for MDR...

Divorce – Alleged Bigamy Raised in Financial Remedies Dispute

5th April, 2024 By

The issue of bigamy and its potential impact on a person's ability to seek financial remedies in a divorce came under the legal spotlight recently. A husband made an application to strike out his wife's financial remedies claim on the basis that she had committed bigamy and deceived him into a marriage when she knew she was not free to marry. This deceit, he claimed, was so egregious that, as a matter of public policy, she should be debarred from pursuing any claim for financial remedies against him. The husband based...