Reform of bereavement compensation called for 

The mothers of two teenage friends killed in a car crash have demanded a change in the law over “pathetic” compensation for bereavement provided by insurance companies.Megan Storey and Jordanna Goodwin, both 16, died along with three teenage friends in the accident at Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, last year. Their mothers received only the statutory bereavement damages in England and Wales for a dead child of £12,980 and have since launched an e-petition to have the law changed.

The families of the three others killed are to receive nothing, as they were over 18.

Tracey Storey, Megan’s mother, said: “This is not about being greedy and seeking more money, as no amount of money can compensate for the loss of Megan or Jordanna. It is about the injustice of the way the system works.”

The friends, all of whom lived in Doncaster, were killed when their Toyota Corolla collided with a Seat Leon and a Vauxhall Corsa last November.

The driver of the Corsa, a 21-year-old friend of the teenagers, was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and released on bail, but the case was dropped earlier this year.

Ronnie Hutcheon, the solicitor for Megan and Jordanna’s mothers, said they had “been offered a paltry sum, which they believe is a terrible way to recognise the value of human life”. He added: “Celebrities can be compensated for hurt feelings or breach of privacy by more than £200,000.”

Not only were the amounts insulting, Mr Hutcheon said, the categories of those entitled to an award were arbitrary. “So if the child is under 18, the parents qualify, but if they are over 18, they get nothing. The grief must be the same, surely?

“Obviously we all appreciate that no amount of money can compensate for the loss, but the government appears to suggest that the death of a loved one is only worth a token amount. That is simply not right, it’s unjust and insurance companies are getting away with not paying a fair amount for the recognition that the death of a close family member was unlawful.”

A bereavement award after a fatal accident can be claimed by a surviving spouse, surviving civil partner and parents, but only if the child is younger than 18, even by only one day.

Mr Hutcheon said other injustices included the fact that if parents are unmarried, then the mother receives the award but the father receives nothing. Children are not entitled to compensation for the death of their parents.

The government increased bereavement awards by 10 per cent in 2012, while also legislating to allow solicitors to take up to 25 per cent of those awards to cover their clients’ legal costs.

In Scotland, compensation awards are considered on a case-by-case basis, with judges having discretion. In one recent claim for the loss of a child, the parents were awarded £100,000.

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