When a death is caused by a motor vehicle accident or medical malpractice, there is a potential claim for Wrongful Death. This is part 1 of a 3 part series about Wrongful Death claims in BC. This 1st blog post will focus on the legislation (statute) governing Wrongful Death claims. The 2nd will focus on case law and the 3rd will focus specifically on the claim for loss of love, care and companionship.
Previously, Wrongful Death claims did not exist as there was no ability for surviving family members to bring a claim. The passing of the Family Compensation Act into law changed this. The act is the governing legislation for Wrongful Death claims in BC.
Section 2 of the Act restricts the group of individuals who can bring a Wrongful Death claim to a spouse, child or parent of the deceased. The definition of “parent” includes a grandparent or stepparent. A “stepparent” includes a person who lives with the parent of a child as the spouse of the parent for at least 2 years and who contributes to the support of the child for at least 1 year. The definition of “spouse” includes a person who “lived with the deceased in a marriage-like relationship” for at least 2 years.
Siblings or other relatives do not qualify for compensation under the FCA.
The goal of compensation under the Family Compensation Act is to put family members in the same financial position that they would have been if the death had not happened. Wrongful Death claims are limited to only the pecuniary losses arising from the death of a spouse, parent, or child such as income loss, expenses incurred, or the monetary value of services performed.
There is no compensation for the terrible grief, sorrow, or loss of companionship. Aside from the narrow list of individuals who can bring a Wrongful Death claim, this is the most disappointing part of these types of claims.
The restrictive nature of Wrongful Death claims have been brought to light in recent news articles identifying the failings of the current system in place for ICBC Wrongful Death claims and Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death claims. In fact, there is a Wrongful Death Reform group who is actively advocating for change.
It is highly unlikely that the NDP will even consider making much needed changes to Wrongful Death claims in light of the fact that they have completely stripped injured claimants of all rights through the pending ICBC No Fault Insurance which comes into force in May 2021.
The lawyers at Holness and Small Law Group have extensive experience advocating for the rights of surviving family members in prosecuting Wrongful Death claims. Contact us to learn more about your options through a free initial legal consultation.