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Loss recovery for dependents of fatal accident victims

Immediate relatives have the right to file legal claims to recover losses when driver negligence causes the injury or death of a loved one. The Family Law Act of Ontario permits spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents and grandchildren to take legal action for compensation.

Recoverable damages in wrongful death claims may include funeral costs as well as the value of lost income, expenses and services attached to the care or travel involving an accident victim. Losses of income may be comprised of a surviving family member's wage losses along with the permanent loss of the victim's financial support. When applicable, damages may be added for the loss of companionship, guidance and care the victim once provided.

Damages may be affected by contributory negligence. In other words, compensation paid by an at-fault driver may be reduced if the victim was responsible in any way for causing a fatal accident.

Accused parties are permitted to negotiate settlements with plaintiffs. Family members have the right to accept or reject them. The settlement may or may not include details about the distribution of funds; otherwise, a court can decide how the money is dispersed including whether to delay payments to minor plaintiffs.

Wrongful death actions focus on the losses to survivors when negligence causes a family member's death. To clarify, the law defines a spouse more broadly than someone who was married to the accident victim. Plaintiff spouses also may be unmarried, provided the partners were parents in a permanent relationship or cohabited for at least three years.

Some motor vehicle accident damages are subject to a statutory deductible under the Family Law Act. These include non-pecuniary claims, damages not easily expressed in monetary terms. Generally, non-pecuniary losses totaling $50,000 or less are limited to $15,000 in injury cases but waived in wrongful death claims.

An attorney can assess a claim and provide additional information about available damages.

Source: Queen's Printer for Ontario, "Family Law Act," accessed July 09, 2015

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