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Wrongful Death Claims

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Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful Death Claims

 

When a family member dies, the ground shifts beneath our feet; life as we have known it will never be the same. If a parent, partner, or sibling dies by accident, as the result of a medical mistake, or at the hands of another, shock is also part of the grief we experience.

Of course, no amount of money will bring back a loved one. But sometimes the absence of that person will create additional hardships for a family. If a young husband and father is killed in a motor vehicle accident, for example, his spouse and children will not only have to live with that emotional loss for the rest of their lives, but they may also find that their economic situation has become precarious overnight. In some cases, an elderly parent may need to borrow money to pay for funeral expenses for their deceased son or daughter. And in instances when the death happened a period of weeks or months after the accident, a family member may have crippling medical or caregiver bills to pay. In many of these situations, a claim for compensation can be made by a family member.

 

What is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death refers to the death of a person due to an accident or injury as a result of the negligent, careless, or reckless actions of another person. The intentions of the other person do not make a difference; the death may be either intentional or unintentional.

 

Common scenarios in wrongful death suits include:

  • A motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver
  • Death due to medical malpractice
  • Product liability cases
  • Murder

In Ontario, a lawsuit can be brought against anyone who is responsible for the death; this might include one or more individuals, one or more companies, or a government agency. Only close family members are allowed to bring a suit for wrongful death. The list of eligible family members is as described in Part V of the Family Law Act:

  • Spouse (including common-law)
  • Children or grandchildren
  • Parents or grandparents
  • Siblings

Courts may base a decision on whether or not, had the victim survived, he or she would have been eligible for personal injury damages. Some of the aspects that family members may be eligible to claim for are: the costs of caring for the deceased person after his or her injury; travel costs to visit the deceased person before his or her death; lost income due to caring for the deceased person; lost income that the deceased person would have provided to the family; increased expenses due to the person’s death; an amount to compensate for the loss of the person’s guidance, care, and companionship, and compensation for funeral expenses.

 

Assessing Your Case

 

If your family member died due to a motor vehicle accident, Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits guidelines based on the province’s no-fault insurance may apply. These guidelines set out the following amounts:

  • A payment to the deceased’s spouse in the amount of $25,000 (or $50,000 if optional coverage was purchased);
  • A payment to each of the deceased’s dependants in the amount of $10,000 (or $20,000 if optional coverage was purchased). Also, if no spouse’s benefit is required (e.g., because the deceased person was not married), then the $25,000 that would have gone to the spouse is split equally among the deceased’s dependants; and
  • A funeral benefit to pay for funeral expenses up to $6,000 (or $8,000 if optional coverage was purchased).

Whether or not your family receives any of these benefits, you may still make a wrongful death claim. However, it should be noted that there is a time limit for making a claim of this type; generally speaking, you must file a claim within two years of the family member’s death. However, if the defendant in the case is an Ontario municipality or a government agency, you may not have that long to file.

 

If you are interested in exploring your options for making a wrongful death claim, the best thing to do is to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. In Ontario, most personal injury law firms offer a free initial consultation, during which a professional will talk to you about your situation and advise you of your options. Choosing the right law firm can be critical. You’ve probably seen advertisements for personal injury lawyers on television or online. Look for a firm that suits your family’s needs. For example, a few firms in the Toronto area offer services in several different languages; if your family is more comfortable in your mother tongue, one of these firms may be the best fit for you.

 

Remember that in wrongful death claims, time is of the essence, and you will need to have legal representation. So contact a law firm today, and explore your options with a personal injury lawyer. 

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