The term “wrongful death” suggests elements of suddenness and tragedy that make it particularly difficult for loved ones to cope with. In a legal sense, the label suggests a certain level of responsibility on the part of the defendant. When someone’s negligence causes death in Ontario, family members may be entitled to compensation under one or more pieces of legislation.
For example, in the immediate aftermath of a fatal car accident, funeral expenses of up to $6,000 and certain spousal and dependant’s benefits may be paid out under Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule. This functions as part of the province’s “no-fault” insurance set-up, which means that the compensation is paid out by the no-fault insurance company regardless of fault in the accident.
Because a wrongful death has such a devastating effect on the family, including the loss of a close family member and resulting financial losses, the Family Law Act provides them with an avenue to seek compensation from the at-fault party. Under Section 61 of the Act, the deceased’s spouse and children and other relatives may be entitled to sue the at fault party– for example a careless driver – for the loss of the person and for financial compensation, or pecuniary loss, as it is also known.
The Act covers funeral expenses and a host of other eventualities, including travel or nursing costs incurred if the injured person doesn’t succumb to their injuries immediately. The aggrieved family may also pursue compensation because of a “loss of guidance, care and companionship” in the wake of their loved one’s absence.
To prove loss under this category requires a high degree of legal skill and preparation. A lawyer has to establish the importance of the lost individual’s role in the family and the closeness of their relationships prior to the negligent act, or tort. The lawyer will assist in quantifying the financial losses suffered by the surviving family members, including potential claims relating to the financial dependency on the deceased and the value of the loss of services that have resulted from the untimely death.