June 17, 2015
In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the basis of wrongful death lawsuits under Alberta's personal injury laws. These laws determine when, why, and how injury victims in Calgary and their family members are able to file and pursue lawsuits against those who are responsible for causing their injuries. In brief, Alberta's wrongful death laws say that if someone is killed in an accident or other bad act, and if that person would have been legally entitled to sue had they only been injured rather than killed, then that person's beneficiaries or Estate may sue for wrongful death on their behalf.
It gets a little more complicated when it comes to actually bringing a suit, though. Alberta's laws lay out precisely who is responsible for filing a wrongful death suit after someone has been killed, and also specifies who can be the beneficiaries of this suit—not all family members are necessarily equal in the eyes of the personal injury laws in effect in Calgary. In Part 2 of this article series, we take a quick look at the parties responsible for filing a wrongful death suit following a fatal accident.
Estate Executors/Administrators Have Responsibility for Wrongful Death Suits
When someone is killed in a fatal accident, Alberta's wrongful death legislation states that only the exector or administrator of the deceased person's estate may bring the action before a court, on behalf of the deceased's family (including the executor him- or herself, when the executor is an eligible family member). In cases where a lawyer or other professional adviser has been named the executor of the wrongful death victim's estate, it will be a non-family member filing the wrongful death suit in their name, yet on behalf of the family members of the victim.
The specific family members who can be beneficiaries of any award in a wrongful death suit—and the only relatives of a wrongful death victim who have standing when it comes to bringing an action before the court—are also spelled out in Alberta's wrongful death legislation:
"3(1) An action under this Act
(a) shall be for the benefit of the spouse, adult interdependent partner, parent, child, brother or sister of the person whose death has been so caused"
"Parent" is further defined as natural parents, stepparents, and grandparents; "child" is similarly defined as a natural child, stepchild, and grandchild. Other relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins are not eligible for wrongful death benefits in most cases, however, regardless of the family dynamic at work.
If there is no executor named for the deceased person, or if more than a year passes after the time of death without the executor filing a suit, any eligible family member may then bring a wrongful death suit before the Calgary courts.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Eases Wrongful Death Suits
The emotional and logistic stressors of a recent family death are enough for anyone to bear. Try adding on the complexities of a wrongful death suit, and you're only making things harder for yourself while all but guaranteeing a less-than-optimal outcome. Call the offices of Calgary personal injury law firm Cuming & Gillespie today and rest easy knowing you have the help you need close at hand.
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