When you lose a family member due to the carelessness of someone else, you may be able to bring a legal claim against the individual or entity who caused the accident. These cases are referred to as “wrongful death” claims. Only certain family members will qualify to assert these claims. Read on to learn the basics of B.C. wrongful death claims.
Necessary Factors for a Wrongful Death Claim
There are two required factors for a successful wrongful death claim:
- The individual’s death was caused by the negligent (or intentional) act of another person
- The family members who have survived the individual have suffered some damage as a result of the death
While the requirements for a wrongful death claim may seem straightforward, presenting your case to a judge or jury can be very complicated. Proving damages and the facts of the situation is even more challenging than personal injury cases.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Losses caused by a family member’s death will vary a great deal by the family. The most common damages are similar to those that arise in a personal injury case as well. For example, losses may include:
- Loss of inheritance
- Medical expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of future financial support
- Funeral expenses
Proving damages in a wrongful death case can be very complicated. For example, it is often challenging to predict how much someone would have earned over the course of his or her lifetime. Even determining how long a family member may have lived is a complex process.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death Claims
Although a wrongful death claim can arise in a variety of situations, some of the most common causes include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Unsafe properties
- Defective products
- Criminal behavior
In situations where the victim was deliberately harmed, you may be able to claim punitive damages as well. Punitivedamages are designed to punish the wrongdoer for his or her inappropriate or illegal actions. These damages are rare, but it is possible to assert them.
Family Members Who Can Assert a Wrongful Death Claim
Actions for wrongful death are designed to compensate the family members for the loss of their loved one. As a result, only specific family members can assert a wrongful death claim.
The most common person to assert a wrongful death claim is the spouse of the deceased individual. Children and parents can also submitcomplaints. Other family members are generally not able to assert a wrongful death lawsuit.
The definition of “spouse” is broad under the Family Compensation Act. A spouse, under this law, is someone who is actually married to the person who passed away or someone who lived with the person who passed in a “marriage-like relationship.” The unmarried partner must have lived with the decedent for at least two years, and that arrangement must not have ended more than one year before the individual’s death.
More than one family member can be a plaintiff in a wrongful death claim. In those situations, any amount of compensation awarded in these actions must be divided among the parties in shares as directed by the court or the jury. In fact, a personal representative of the deceased person may bring an action after six months if no one else asserts a legal claim. If that happens, the personal representative brings the lawsuit on behalf of everyone who could have asserted a claim.
Getting More Information about Wrongful Death Claims
If you think that you may have a valid wrongful death claim, bringing an action may be a good option for both you and your family. Our team of personal injury lawyers at Diamond and Diamond can help you decide the best course of action and get the process started. Contact our 24/7 injury hotline at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free, and we have offices located throughout British Columbia.