Gays `entitled to payouts on death of partners'

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The Independent Online
THE PARTNERS of gays and lesbians who are killed in accidents should be allowed to claim compensation for bereavement in the same way that heterosexuals can, a report published today recommends.

The Law Commission described the current law as "discriminatory" and "arbitrary" in making no provision to compensate same-sex partners after a fatal accident.

Under current legislation the partner of a homosexual man or woman who died in the Paddington rail crash would have no claim against the rail company. But the family of a heterosexual killed in the same accident can claim unlimited damages. Some of the claims from the dependants of City executives who died in the rail disaster are understood to be in excess of pounds 1m.

The Law Commission said: "The present law arbitrarily excludes from an entitlement to claim compensation for financial loss some people who were financially dependent on the deceased."

The commission, whose recommendations are usually followed by government- sponsored legislation, said its proposed reform would "remove that anomaly by adding a generally worded class of claimant to the present fixed list." The commission said the category should be extended to include not only same-sex couples, but also siblings, and any children who were supported by the deceased.

Part of any claim for bereavement compensation is to cover spouses and dependants for "grief and sorrow". The family, or the estate, can also claim for loss of earnings and support that had been provided by the deceased. Funeral expenses and the cost of medical care incurred before the person's death are also covered.

The commission recommends that "grief and sorrow" compensation should be increased from pounds 7,500 to pounds 10,000, with a maximum payout of pounds 30,000 to cover multiple dependants for any one death.

One of the key aims of the recommendations, the commissioners said, was to modernise legislation to bring it in line with the "values of modern society".

The report follows a land- mark House of Lords ruling last week which permitted a gay man the right to acquire his partner's leasehold in a flat after his death in a motoring accident.