Ipswich father’s campaign for bereavement law change after son Lewis Jarrett killed in road crash
- Credit: Archant
A grieving Ipswich father whose 26-year-old son died in a car crash is demanding a change in the law over the “ridiculous” rules regarding compensation for bereavement paid by insurance companies.
Former Copleston High School student Lewis Jarrett died in a collision on the A140 in Stoke Ash, near the Suffolk/Norfolk border, in July 2014. He got out of a vehicle on the road and was hit by a car. He was taken to hospital and died three days later. A police investigation resulted in no prosecutions.
The insurance companies involved agreed to reimburse most of the funeral expenses on the basis that two different drivers were each partly at fault.
If a loved one is killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, then you may be entitled to claim a bereavement award, under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976. The current statutory bereavement award for a fatality caused by someone else’s negligence is set at £12,980.
The award serves as a recognition of grief and a financial token or public recognition that the death was wrongful. However, that award can only be claimed once by either a surviving spouse, civil partner or parent, but the parent can only claim the bereavement award if their child was under 18.
David Jarrett, 53, a self-employed bricklayer of Reading Road, believes this is not fair for parents in his situation. He was not entitled to any bereavement compensation after his son, Lewis, an accountant who graduated from Oxford Brookes University, died as Lewis was over 18.
Mr Jarrett said: “I just can’t believe human life is worth that little and that no one in our family has been able to claim that bereavement compensation.
“It is not the fact you want a large sum of money, because that is not going to bring your son back. But to not be entitled to any bereavement compensation because your son was over 18 seems so unfair. These insurance companies are getting away with it. They are not worried. They know that a fatal accident claim like this is going to cost them less than whiplash.
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“The compensation would help others financially, such as parents who lose a child who was also their carer.”
The funeral expenses for Lewis amounted to just under £6,000. Eight months later, the insurers paid £4,000 towards the funeral expenses. The insurers did not have to pay out any bereavement compensation.
In Scotland, compensation awards are considered on a case-by-case basis. In one recent claim for the loss of a child, the parents were awarded £100,000.
Mr Jarrett added: “I just want a similar approach to what they have in Scotland. It is up to the courts to decide how much gets paid out. That money can offer some help in dealing with the loss.
“Lewis had his whole life ahead of him. All the work that he put in. When he was studying, he used to take himself away to a hotel and stay there for a week or so before an exam. I still have the odd day off when you wake up and just feel overcome. You wake up and realise he is not there.”
Stevan Stratton, an associate solicitor at Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich, who acted for the Jarrett family, said: “As Lewis was over 18 and had no children and no long-term partner, the insurers did not have to pay out any bereavement award, they simply had to contribute to the funeral expenses. They didn’t have to pay anything to reflect the loss of a life.
“If someone is killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, their next of kin, whoever that may be, should be able to claim a bereavement award, and that award should be more than £12,980.
“So the first change that we at Gotelee would like to see is for a bereavement award to be made payable to the deceased’s next-of-kin in every case like this.
“Secondly, we want the award of £12,980 to be increased to a fair figure. The law as it stands is out of date and unfair and needs to be changed. These are perfectly reasonable and fair changes and there is no real argument against them. There has simply been no change because that would cost the insurance industry a lot of money.
“David was very surprised to find out how the law works in these cases and so it is always helpful when he, and others who have suffered the same tragedy, campaign for change.”
Mr Jarrett added: “I’m going to be doing this for years. We will get change eventually. It can’t stay how it is. It is just ridiculous.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said there are no current plans to change the law.