Fatal Accidents Act in Alberta

The Fatal Accidents Act in Alberta is a law that provides support to families who have lost a loved one due to another person’s mistake or carelessness. Everyone in Alberta must be aware of personal injury law as it outlines how families and injury victims can receive assistance and recover damages during such challenging times. This article will serve as a guide that will walk you through what personal injury law means, who it helps, and how it works in a way that’s easy to understand.  So, if you’re dealing with a loss, have experienced an injury, or want to be in the know, we’re here to shed light on this law and ensure you have the information you need, especially concerning deceased persons and their families.

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Fatal Accidents Act Alberta:

This law is to assist families when someone dies due to another person’s negligence. It ensures that if a life is unfairly lost, there is a means for the family to seek support.  
The Purpose of the Act How it Works in Wrongful Death Claims
This Act’s main goal is to ensure the deceased’s family can take legal action. It offers the family financial support for funeral costs and the loss of the loved one’s future earnings. When filing a wrongful death claim, this Act serves as a set of rules that dictate who is eligible to make a claim, the type of compensation they can seek, and the procedural guidelines for the entire process.

Historical Background and Development

The Alberta Law Reform Institute points out that in the past, families couldn’t get money for the emotional loss caused by someone’s wrongful death. However 1979, Alberta changed things by adding section 8 to the Fatal Accidents Act   This section of the law stipulates that the court must award compensation to the close family members of the deceased for their emotional suffering, with the maximum amount set at $9,000. However, this rule has encountered significant resistance, particularly concerning the death of a child.   Here’s a brief and limited timeline of the development of the Act as reported by the Alberta Law Reform Institute:  
Year Event
Pre-1922 Introduction of An Ordinance Respecting Compensation to the Families of Persons Killed by Accidents (No. 12), which became law in Alberta upon it becoming a province.
1922 Alberta legislature enacted legislation identical to the Northwest Territories Ordinance.
1928 The name of the statute was changed to The Fatal Accidents Act.
1967 The Act was amended to allow courts to award damages for funeral expenses and body disposal.
1979 Section 8 of the Act was enacted, allowing courts to give close family members damages for bereavement.
1980 The current Fatal Accidents Act, R.S.A. 1980 c. F-5, was established, similar to Lord Campbell’s Act with a few amendments and more modern language.

Who Can Bring a Claim?

Under the Act, the individuals entitled to bring a claim include the deceased’s immediate family members. Specifically, this includes:  
  • Spouses: Legally married partners of the deceased at the time of death.
  • Adult Interdependent Partners: This term is specific to Alberta law and refers to partners who have lived together in a relationship of interdependence for a certain period or have entered into an adult interdependent partnership agreement.
  • Parents: This includes biological or adoptive parents of the deceased.
  • Children: Biological or adopted children of the deceased.
  • Brothers and Sisters: This includes the deceased’s full, half, and legally adopted siblings.

Types of Damages 

  • Money the Family Would’ve Had
This is for the money the deceased person would have brought home, helping the family keep going financially.
  • What the Family Misses Out On
This examines how the family’s overall income is diminished without the presence of their loved one.
  • The Company of the Loved One
Losing someone means missing their love and support. The Act permits compensation for this emotional loss.
  • Advice and Care
This compensation is meant to address the guidance and care that children who have lost a parent are currently lacking.  

Paying for the Funeral

The Act also covers the funeral cost and taking care of the person’s remains, ensuring the family doesn’t have to worry about these expenses during a tough time.  

Punishment Damages

In certain cases, if the person’s death was wrongful or intentional, the court can order additional compensation. This is not meant to address the family’s loss but rather to penalize the wrongdoer and convey that such actions should not occur.  

Process for Filing a Claim

Filing a wrongful death claim under the Act in Alberta can be a complex process, but here’s a simplified guide:  
  1. Seek Legal Counsel
It’s highly advisable to start by consulting with a lawyer specializing in wrongful death claims. They can guide you through the process and help gather the necessary information.
  1. Gather Evidence
Collect all relevant evidence that shows the death was due to someone’s wrongful act or negligence. This could include police reports and witness statements.
  1. Document Financial Impact
Prepare documents demonstrating the financial losses suffered due to the death, like income statements and potential future earnings.
  1. Determine Eligibility
Confirm that you can file a claim as a spouse, adult interdependent partner, parent, child, brother, or sister of the deceased.
  1. File the Claim
Your lawyer will draft and file a statement of claim with the appropriate court, which starts the legal process.
  1. Notify the Defendant
According to legal procedures, the person or entity you’re filing the claim against must be formally notified.
  1. Negotiate Settlement or Go to Trial
Many claims are settled out of court. If a settlement can’t be reached, the case may go to trial where a judge or jury will decide the outcome.   Here’s what you need for the required documentation and evidence:  
Document/Evidence Type Description
Death Certificate Official document confirming the death.
Proof of Relationship Documents proving your relationship to the deceased (e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate).
Financial Documents Evidence of the deceased’s income and financial contributions to the family.
Incident Reports Police or accident reports if applicable.
Witness Statements Accounts from people who have relevant information about the death.
Funeral Expense Receipts Proof of expenses related to the funeral and burial.

Defences and Limitations

When a wrongful death claim is filed under the Fatal Accidents Act in Alberta, the defendant—meaning the person or party being sued, may present certain defences to argue against the claim.  

Common Defences

No-Fault The defendant might claim they weren’t at fault for the death, suggesting that the accident or incident was unavoidable or caused by something other than their actions. Contributory Negligence This defence suggests that the deceased person was partly or wholly responsible for their own death due to their negligence or actions. Assumption of Risk If the deceased was participating in an activity with known risks, like certain sports or dangerous work, the defendant might argue that they had accepted those risks.

Limitation Periods

The Act sets out a specific time frame within which a claim must be filed, known as the limitation period. In Alberta, the general limitation period is:
  • Two Years: A claim must typically be filed within two years from the date of the individual’s death. The right to file a claim may be lost if this period lapses.

Restrictions on the Right to Sue

Some restrictions can limit the ability to sue under the Act:
  1. Relationship to the Deceased: Only certain family members, as defined by the Act, have the right to sue.
  2. Proof of Loss: Claimants must be able to prove the losses they claim, such as financial dependency on the deceased.
  3. Sovereign Immunity: Government entities may have immunity from wrongful death claims in certain cases unless specific conditions are met.

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Let a Personal Injury Lawyer Handle Your Case

For those who have been affected by the tragic loss of a loved one due to a motor vehicle accident, seeking legal advice from Personal Injury Lawyers Edmonton, who specialize in cases involving serious injuries, is strongly encouraged.  Navigating the complexities of wrongful death claims under the Act can be hard. Legal professionals can provide valuable guidance to ensure that persons entitled to compensation for their loss have their rights protected and receive the fair compensation they deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a settlement cannot be reached in a wrongful death claim under the Act in Alberta, the case may proceed to a trial. 

In a trial, a judge or jury will hear the evidence presented by both parties—the claimants (plaintiffs) and the defendant—and decide on liability and the amount of damages to be awarded, if any.

Yes, it can be used to seek compensation for wrongful deaths, even if the death resulted from a criminal act. It isn’t restricted to particular incident types but rather assesses the wrongful actions that led to the death. 

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