What Legal Remedies Are Available for Wrongful Death Victims’ Families?

The sudden death of a loved one is a profoundly disruptive event. Beyond the immeasurable emotional toll, families face a harsh financial reality.  In Alberta, the Fatal Accidents Act (FAA) serves as a legal lifeline, allowing families to pursue compensation for these losses through wrongful death lawsuits from a personal injury lawyer. The prevalence of wrongful death claims in a personal injury law firm underscores the tragic reality of preventable personal injury claim fatalities.  Statistics Canada reports an average of 270 road fatalities in Alberta annually, highlighting the potential consequences of someone else’s negligence on the road.  Similarly, patient safety incidents remain a concern, with the Canadian Institute for Health Information indicating over 15,000 reported incidents in Alberta hospitals yearly. These figures heighten the need for an injury lawyer Edmonton recourse in the face of such preventable deaths.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is a recognized element of damages recoverable in wrongful death lawsuits. However, it is a complex concept with evolving legal interpretations in personal injury claims. Traditionally, loss of consortium was limited to the spouse of the deceased, acknowledging the deprivation of spousal intimacy and companionship.

Core Components of Loss of Consortium

Loss of Companionship This refers to the deprivation of the deceased’s presence, social interaction, and emotional connection. Encompasses shared activities, conversations, and the overall sense of togetherness.
Loss of Guidance and Support The deceased may have provided crucial emotional and practical support, offering advice, encouragement, and a sense of security. Loss of consortium acknowledges the deprivation of this guidance system.
Loss of Nurture and Care This facet is particularly relevant in parent-child claims. It acknowledges the deprivation of parental love, care, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided.

Approaches to Valuation

Courts employ various methods to estimate the value of loss of consortium:
Loss of Enjoyment of Life This approach focuses on the overall impact the loss has on the plaintiff’s ability to enjoy life due to the absence of the deceased’s companionship and support.
“Day-in-the-Life” Evidence Here, evidence is presented to illustrate the specific ways the deceased’s presence enriched the plaintiff’s life. This can include details about shared activities, routines, and the emotional bond.
Expert Testimony In some cases, mental health clinicians may be called upon to provide expert opinions on the psychological impact of the loss and the deceased’s unique role in the plaintiff’s life.

Case Study: Pennison v. Carrol (2015)

A 2015 Louisiana court case (Pennison v. Carrol) awarded $150,000 to the wife of a motorcyclist injured by a truck driver. This amount of personal injury compensation supported her for the loss of companionship and support she experienced due to her husband’s injuries.  The wife cared for him for a year while he recovered, and their relationship was significantly impacted. Intimacy was limited, shared activities like hunting and riding stopped, and the husband’s emotional state deteriorated. The loss of the consortium award was part of a larger settlement totalling $4.2 million for both the wife and the injured motorcyclist.

Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Case in Edmonton?

The Fatal Accidents Act (FAA) in Alberta dictates who possesses the legal standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Statutory Framework

The FAA outlines a specific list of qualified plaintiffs under Section 4:
Spouse (or Common-Law Partner) A legally recognized spouse or common-law partner of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. Common-law partnerships require proof of cohabitation for at least three years or the presence of a child.
Dependent Children Biological or adopted children who were financially dependent on the deceased at the time of death are eligible to file a claim. Dependency is established through financial records demonstrating support from the deceased.
Parents of the Deceased In the absence of a spouse or dependent children, the parents of the deceased pursue a wrongful death claim. This right is subject to specific conditions, such as the deceased not having been previously married and not having any children themselves.

Dependency

The concept of dependency plays a role in determining eligibility for some claimants, particularly children and parents. The FAA employs a two-pronged test for dependency:
  1. The child must be under the age of 18 at the time of the deceased’s death. However, exceptions exist for children who are disabled or pursuing post-secondary education with financial support from the deceased.
  2. The child or parent must have demonstrably relied on the deceased for financial support. This can be proven through financial records showing contributions to household expenses or funding for education.

The Economic Impact of Wrongful Death

The financial impact of wrongful death can be significant. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics indicates that the average lifetime lost productivity cost per wrongful death is approximately $1.4 million.  Economic damages are the financial losses demonstrably suffered by the family due to the deceased’s death. These damages aim to restore the family, as much as possible, to the financial position they would have been in had the wrongful death not occurred.

Negotiated Settlements in Wrongful Death Claims

Negotiated settlements involve reaching an agreement with the defendant (or their insurance company) regarding the total compensation for the wrongful death. This is typically achieved through discussions facilitated by legal representatives from both parties.

Structure of Settlements

There are two main ways wrongful death settlements are paid out:
Lump-Sum Payments This is a one-time, upfront payment that resolves the entire personal injury case of motorcycle accidents. It’s a common option for negotiated settlements from our personal injury clients and can be helpful for families facing immediate financial burdens from their loved one’s death, such as outstanding bills.
Structured Settlements This involves receiving regular payments over time, often for months or even years after a motor vehicle accident. This option is more common when the at-fault party of injury victims lacks sufficient insurance coverage to pay a lump sum.
 

Financial Recompense for Psychological Scars

Accidents like motor vehicle accidents also inflict invisible wounds beyond traumatic brain injuries. Victims may experience a spectrum of emotional distress, including:
  • Fear, sadness, anger, and guilt significantly impact mental well-being and daily life functions. For instance, personal injury accidents develop a phobia of driving, hindering their independence.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can develop, characterized by anxiety, flashbacks, and lucid nightmares related to the traumatic event. A 2018 study reported that 22% of road traffic accident survivors experience PTSD.
  • The pain and limitations of injuries, coupled with financial stress, can trigger anxiety and depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that nearly 18% of adults in the US experience anxiety disorders, often triggered by trauma.
  • Chronic pain and psychological trauma can exacerbate emotional distress, creating a vicious cycle. A 2016 study in the journal Pain found a link between chronic pain and prior trauma, highlighting the need to litigate both physical and psychological aspects of recovery.

Controversial Wrongful Death Claims Cases

Ford Pinto Case (1970s)

Facts The Ford Pinto, a popular car in the 1970s, had a design defect – a vulnerable gas tank prone to rupturing in rear-end collisions. Despite internal knowledge of the issue, Ford conducted a cost-benefit analysis prioritizing profits over safety, opting not to fix the defect or issue a recall. Tragically, this resulted in numerous car accidents.
Legal Cause of Action Product liability—Ford’s faulty design and failure to warn consumers about the danger constituted product liability, leading to personal injury cases.
Outcome Courts ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, highlighting the manufacturer’s negligence and its responsibility for the deaths. This case serves as a landmark example of corporate accountability for prioritizing profits over safety.
 

Aaliyah Haughton Plane Crash (2001)

Facts R&B singer Aaliyah and others perished in a plane crash. Investigations revealed that the plane was overloaded, and the pilot lacked proper certification for such an aircraft.
Legal Cause of Action Wrongful death—Instinct Productions, responsible for organizing the flight, was sued for negligence due to overloading the plane and hiring an unqualified pilot.
Outcome Lawsuits against Instinct Productions were successful, demonstrating that those who organize transportation can be held liable for personal injury lawyers’ victims if they fail to prioritize safety protocols in legal representation.
 

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Securing Justice with Edmonton Personal Injury Lawyers

Understanding the available legal remedies empowers families to seek justice and financial recompense for their loss. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to negligence, contact Sidhu Personal Injury Lawyers Edmonton for a free consultation. Our experienced injury lawyers in Edmonton assist you through the legal proceedings and fight to secure the compensation you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, one can still file a wrongful death claim even if the deceased had a comorbidity. The key is to establish that the defendant’s negligence worsened the pre-existing condition and significantly contributed to the death.

Unfortunately, some personal injury law firms have enacted wrongful death cap laws that limit the total amount of damages a jury can award. These caps typically apply to non-economic damages like pain and suffering from an experienced personal injury lawyer.

No. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases seeking compensation for damages, while criminal charges involve punishment for a crime. A wrongful death lawsuit can proceed even if no experienced personal injury lawyers or criminal charges are filed against the responsible party.

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