Grief and The Law

The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL), a not-for-profit group, have recently been campaigning for changes to the criteria you need to meet when seeking compensation for psychiatric injury following an accident. The laws relating to claims for psychiatric injury following the death or injury of a loved one were developed following the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago. In subsequent years there has been a huge change, not just in technology, but in our cultural attitudes too.

Under the existing law, only parents, children, spouses, civil partners or fiancés are assumed to have "close ties of love and affection". This means that if a couple had been in a committed relationship for 30 years without marrying, the surviving partner would not be eligible to claim. There is also a distinct lack of rights for siblings or grandparents. For those missing from the list it can feel like their relationship isn't important in the eyes of the law and that their grief is invalid.

There is also an assumption that you need to have been physically close to the accident in order to claim for psychiatric injury. APIL have argued that "witnessing a tragedy happen to a loved one through a webcam or while on a video call, for example, is very possible". In fact, there have already been cases involving such equipment. In 2013, an American soldier who was deployed abroad watched in horror as his wife, who was nine months pregnant, was attacked and stabbed by an intruder whilst they spoke on FaceTime. Thankfully their unborn baby was not harmed but his wife suffered life changing injuries including the loss of an eye. I can imagine nothing more distressing than watching a loved one being attacked whilst you remain helpless in a foreign country, yet under the English legal system , the soldier would have needed a legal team to prove that he had been affected psychologically by the incident.

When you have lost a loved one, the last thing you should have to do is jump through hoops to try to prove the strength of your relationship or the depth of your suffering. Loss and grief affect different people in different ways and APIL are hoping their campaign will help highlight the flexibility that we need in the law.

For further information, please contact Sarah O'Brien on 01234 270600 or email at sobrien@woodfines.co.uk

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