A paltry £1,800 increase in compensation for bereavement has been deemed an ‘insult’ by leading claims specialists Thompsons Solicitors.

The firm’s comments come after the Government announced the level of bereavement damages paid under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 will rise from £10,000 to £11,800 from January 1, 2008.

The Act provides compensation to certain family members and dependants of people who have suffered a fatal injury or disease. This includes accidents causing death on the road, in the workplace or due to medical negligence.

The Act also applies to claims for death from the asbestos-related lung cancer, mesothelioma.

This the first time bereavement compensation has been increased since 2002 when it was increased from £7,500 to £10,000.

The Government has announced that bereavement damages will increase every three years in line with the Retail Price Index. The increase is not retrospective.

Thompsons Solicitors believe the increase is an insult to families. The firm has been campaigning for equal bereavement compensation for the families of mesothelioma victims across England, Scotland and Wales.

Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos. It can lie dormant for decades before developing and there is no cure.

In Scotland widows and widowers of mesothelioma victims receive up to £30,000 compensation for bereavement.

Other family members in Scotland also receive bereavement compensation of between £10,000 to £15,000 each.

Head of Asbestos Policy

Ian McFall, head of asbestos policy at Thompsons Solicitors said: “This increase in bereavement compensation, announced by the government, is just not good enough.

“It fails to address the widening gap between the way the law treats asbestos victims compared to the more humanitarian approach of the law in Scotland

“Here widows and widowers are still only entitled to a fraction of the compensation for bereavement that would be paid in Scotland, while the grief and sorrow of other family members in England and Wales is not recognised at all.

“The Government had the opportunity to bring bereavement compensation in England and Wales in line with Scotland, but has instead announced a paltry £1,800 increase. This achieves nothing more than index linking an unfair and unjust system.”

Anne Craig, a widow from Hebburn, South Tyneside lost her husband, David, to mesothelioma in Feburary 2002. He was just 54.

She said: “This announcement is like a slap in the face for the families of people who have died from asbestos diseases.

“I want the Government to bring bereavement compensation in England and Wales up to the same level as compensation paid to families in Scotland. No amount of money is going to replace David, however, putting an £11,800 price tag on my grief is an insult.

“The system in England also needs to change to take into account the feelings of other relatives. Under the current system, the bereavement of David’s family, including our sons David and Daren, is not even recognised even though their anguish has been as great as mine.”

This news story was also published by The Shields Gazette.