In the face of tragedy, the loss of a loved one is an experience that no one can truly prepare for. The pain and complex emotions that accompany such an event are immeasurable. In some cases, the aftermath leaves loved ones grappling with the complex legal landscape of a wrongful death claim. In Alberta, like many other jurisdictions, there are established legal avenues through which an affected person can seek compensation and hold the responsible party accountable if the person’s death was due to another party’s negligence or wrongful actions.

This blog will shed light on important points that Albertans should know about wrongful death claims in Alberta, offering insights into the legal framework, the types of cases that may have a claim, and the crucial steps in seeking justice for a lost loved one. By understanding the nuances of wrongful death claims, individuals can better navigate the legal landscape and work towards achieving closure during a profoundly difficult time.

Not All Family Members Are Entitled to Benefit From a Wrongful Death Claim

The death of an individual does not automatically trigger a wrongful death claim. Under Alberta’s Fatal Accidents Act (also referred to as the “FAA”), only certain family members may be eligible to benefit from compensation obtained in a wrongful death lawsuit. In accordance with Section 1, a wrongful death claim may be brought by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate for the benefit of the eligible family members outlined in Section 3, which includes:  

  • a spouse or interdependent partner
  • a surviving child (including a grandchild or stepchild)
  • a sibling 
  • a parent

Without an executor or administrator, the named individual fails or refuses to file a wrongful death claim within the applicable timeframe. In that case, an eligible family member may commence the claim on behalf of the others. It is important to remember that the limitation period rules under the Provincial Limitations Act also apply to wrongful death claims.

What Amount of Statutory Benefits are Payable?

The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate surviving loved ones for the mental and emotional suffering and distress they experience due to their loved one’s sudden death. Although it is impossible to put a monetary value on the grief, anger, and sadness of a loved one’s experience, Section 8 of the Fatal Accidents Act provides prescribed values for bereavement. Under the legislation, the following bereavement benefits are payable as follows:

  • $82,000 to the spouse or interdependent adult partner of the deceased, 
  • $82,000 to the parent(s) of the deceased, with the caveat that the benefit is to be equally divided if a claim is brought for the benefit of both parents and 
  • $49,000 to each child of the deceased.

Certain family members may also be able to claim for lost dependency on household services or income. Your personal injury lawyer will be able to retain experts such as economists and occupational therapists to aid in determining the value of losses, including household maintenance and child care. 

When a compensation claim is made against the negligent or at-fault party, the benefit may be adjusted accordingly if the deceased is found to have been contributorily negligent. For example, if the deceased was killed in a car accident but was found not to have been wearing their seatbelt, the amount payable to surviving loved ones may be reduced. The statutory benefits payable under the Fatal Accidents Act are not affected by any other amount or benefit payable under an insurance policy.  

Common Challenges Faced by Loved Ones in a Wrongful Death Case

Aside from the financial and emotional challenges involved, family members pursuing a wrongful death claim may face various other issues throughout the legal process, such as identifying multiple at-fault or negligent parties responsible for the wrongful death or proving the requisite causation and negligence resulting in their loved one’s death. However, the assistance of a knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer can help ensure the claims process runs smoothly. From filing the claim, conducting initial investigations, gathering evidence, and negotiating with insurance companies, your lawyer will develop a strategic legal strategy to explore early resolution opportunities while protecting your interests. 

Every Claim Depends on the Facts

The value of each wrongful death claim is case-specific and depends on the unique circumstances involved. Recovering compensation from the at-fault party can be a challenging and lengthy process. It is beneficial to work with a trusted personal injury lawyer who can manage the claim and help you quickly recover the compensation you are entitled to to help you move forward after a devastating loss. 

Cuming & Gillespie LLP‘s compassionate personal injury lawyers understand the trauma that can accompany the unexpected passing of a loved one, particularly when it comes as the result of another’s negligence. Grief and financial pressures can quickly take over when you are left with overwhelming emotions and unanswered questions. We will gather the necessary information and file a claim on your behalf if you have been affected by wrongful death. To speak with one of our lawyers regarding your wrongful death questions, contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555.