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Government consults on damages for wrongful death

8 July 2010

Scottish Government proposals to reform the law on damages for wrongful death are being published for consultation today.

The consultation, which is open until 27 August, runs alongside the call for evidence from the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee on the member's bill introduced by Bill Butler MSP (click here for news item). Both concern the Scottish Law Commission's report on Damages for Wrongful Death, published in September 2008.

The Commission's report called for a re-enactment of the Damages (Scotland) Act 1976, with amendments to bring in a new method of calculating the damages payable to a victim’s family, based on the assumption that the deceased spent 25% of their income on themselves and the rest on supporting their family. Both financial and non-financial claims would in future be limited to the deceased's immediate family.

Ministers say they support the broad objectives of Mr Butler's Bill and acknowledge the work undertaken by the Commission and Mr Butler, but want to examine further the key changes proposed by the Commission, in light of concerns raised.

Key issues which have been identified by stakeholders include:

  • the fixed 25 per cent deduction from the deceased's net income for personal living expenses;
  • the disregard of spouse's income;
  • restricting the right to sue for patrimonial loss to the deceased's "immediate family" as defined in the 1976 Act.

Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing said:

"I recognise that modernisation and simplification of the law of damages for wrongful death could help those who have the terrible misfortune to have a lost a loved one.

"Our aim is to ensure that victims and their relatives have appropriate rights and the ability, without unnecessary difficulty, to secure proper redress in respect of personal injury and wrongful death.

"Our objective is to work with interested parties to develop a way forward which takes account of all relevant perspectives and to modernise appropriately the law of damages for wrongful death, in order to reflect the structures, values and expectations of 21st century Scotland."

The Government reaffirmed its commitment to the reforming the law in this area, through a programme to integrate work on three damages-related reports by the Commission: Psychiatric Injury; Limitation and Prescribed Claims; and Wrongful Death. The last of these is being considered first as it appears that it causes particular concern. It remains the intention to address the other two reports as soon as possible.

Click here to view the consultation.


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