When someone dies in an accident, family members can recover damages both under existing insurance laws and under Ontario’s Family Law Act. Both sources of recovery have different requirements that family members must comply with in order to recover damages for the death of a loved one.
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No-Fault Insurance Proceeds
Although money or insurance benefits are probably the last thing on the mind of someone who has lost a loved one in a car accident, Ontario does provide for benefits of family members. Regardless of fault, Ontario provides spouses of those who die in a car accident $25,000, and additional dependents, such as children, can receive $10,000 each. If someone dies unmarried, all of the remaining dependents will share the $25,000 equally that the spouse would have received.
Benefits are also available on top of these amounts to help pay for funeral expenses. Families can receive $6,000 in benefits to help with these expenses.
With both of these no-fault benefits, additional insurance can be purchased that can significantly increase these amounts.
In order to obtain death benefits, the death must be caused by the accident. Ontario and Ajax law says that the death must occur within 180 days of the accident, however, if the deceased was continuously disabled because of the accident, benefits can be had if the death happens within 156 weeks of the accident.
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Meeting the Legal Requirements for Insurance Benefits
Where death happens at the scene of the accident or immediately afterward, the legal requirements and these timeframes are easy to prove. However, sometimes there can be a continuous chain of events that leads to death later on.
For example, assume an elderly man is in a car accident that causes severe broken bones that require immediate surgery. The man remains in the hospital for the surgery, but he never regains consciousness after surgery. Rather, the man remains in a vegetative state, or perhaps going in and out of consciousness. While in this state, he contracts a respiratory infection and passes away on the 181st day after the accident.
In this case, it may be clear that the man was “continuously disabled” after the accident so that the benefits are available even beyond the 180 day time requirement. However, was the man “continuously disabled as a result of the accident?”
Insurance companies like to argue and deny claims. An insurance company may argue that the man’s respiratory infection was caused by poor hospital sanitation, poor healthcare, or some other pre-existing disease. As such, because the continuing disability and death are not caused by the accident (according to the insurance company), the family of the man would likely be denied benefits by an insurance company.
A good Ajax death lawyer may argue that if not for the car accident, the man would not have needed surgery, nor been in the hospital in the first place. As such, the entire chain of events was set in motion by, and thus caused by the car accident, entitling the family to the death benefits.
This is just an example, but you can see how causation can cause problems with obtaining benefits when death is not immediately caused by a car accident.
Recovery Under Wrongful Death Laws
In many cases, the death of a loved one is caused by the carelessness or negligence of another driver. In these situations, family members may have a right to sue for wrongful death under Ontario’s Family Law Act. Note that unlike statutory no-fault insurance benefits discussed above, to obtain wrongful death damages, liability and negligence by another driver must be proven.
Family members who are spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandchildren, or grandparents can recover damages under Ontario’s wrongful death laws for the death of a family member. The law does not limit children or parents to biological, but rather, any person who has acted as a parent, even in the absence of a formal adoption, can make a claim for damages under the Act. Additionally, a spouse may include those who have cohabitated for three years or who are parents of a child with the deceased.
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Damages for Wrongful Death
The law allows family members to recover for the out-of-pocket costs of caring for the deceased before death. Even expenses not directly related to medical care can be reimbursed, such as travel expenses, or expenses to stay in a hotel room to be closer to the deceased while he or she was still alive. Family members who may have lost income caring for the victim can receive their lost wages. If the deceased performed in-home services, such as helping cook, clean, or take care of children, and help is needed to perform those duties, those expenses can be paid for as well.
In some cases, the future and ongoing lost support of the deceased loved one can be recovered. In many cases, this may require the use of experts to testify as to the deceased’s earning potential over a period of years would have been in order to calculate the loss to the surviving family members.
Damages are not just limited to out-of-pocket expenses, but also to those damages that have value, but not a price tag. For example, the loss of the guidance, companionship, or love of the deceased can be compensated. The pain, suffering, sense of loss, and other emotional trauma has a value that the law recognizes, and family members can receive damages for these hardships, as well.
Because wrongful death damages are only recoverable by showing someone else caused the accident, a good Ajax death lawyer should get involved with your case as early as possible. Hiring a lawyer early will help make sure that evidence is preserved, witnesses are located and questioned, and that any experts who may need to be retained are hired, and that the experts have the evidence they need to form their opinions.
A Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help You
The wrongful death lawyers at Preszler Law Firm understand how difficult it can be to lose a loved one in a car accident. Our lawyers can help answer your questions and act as your advocate and counselor during these very trying times. Call us today to discuss any injuries or accidents that you or a loved one may have suffered.