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Suing for Wrongful Death in Ontario

When a spouse or family member dies because of someone’s negligence, you think it’d be worth a million dollars, but unfortunately Ontario’s law doesn’t work like that. Here’s what you need to know about wrongful death.

First, there’s pretty much only one reason you’re reading this blog and I want to tell you how sorry I am.

Wrongful death cases are tricky and often frustrating. You see, in Ontario you can’t be compensated for grief. Between us, I don’t know why this is the case and I personally think they should.

Compensation For Wrongful Death

A wrongful death case falls under the jurisdiction of The Family Law Act, and thus you are compensated for loss of care, guidance and companionship.

Imagine a little boy loses his dad. That boy is compensated only for those three things. His pain and grief, although considerable, do not factor into the decision.

10-15 years ago, the compensation amounts awarded were modest. Today it’s getting better, but I still think these cases are far too undervalued.

I don’t mean to be so pessimistic (if you read this blog, you’ll know I’m a realist) as we have seen some progress in the past few years.

Courts are starting look at the cultural background as a family with an understanding that cultural norms often influence the amount of loss of care, guidance and companionship suffered by the survivors throughout their lives.

For example, a traditional Chinese family who loses a son may be compensated more as a son would have looked after his parents well into their old age. But still, the amounts are woefully inadequate.

On one level, I understand it. It’s impossible to put a value on a human life, something we can’t ask the courts to do. But to go to the opposite extreme -tiny payouts- doesn’t seem right either.

Loss Of Income In Wrongful Death Cases

The bigger issue is dependency.

If the deceased is the sole income earner, you could see quite a loss of income. So there is that aspect – you can sue for income loss.

This is where we see children sue for the loss of a parent or grandparent, or a spouse sue for the loss of their support.  Having said that, if the relationships were estranged, the courts will likely award less.

These types of cases put already stressed families under a microscope.  From an emotional perspective, they’re tough for everyone involved.

In fact, having to defend these kinds of cases was a huge reason why I started my own practice.

Imagine defending a case where the plaintiff is a grief-stricken family trying to establish how much they loved and needed the deceased, and it’s our job to poke holes in that.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s much worse to be the plaintiff in this situation, but it’s gut wrenching all around.

Every lawyer in the industry has worked on or read about cases that were so tough. The kind of  case where you have a model citizen who is killed by, for example, a drunk driver. And from personal/professional perspective, how do you defend that? If it’s your job, you have no choice and it’s the reason that today, I work with the plaintiffs.

Personally, I don’t know the difference between loss of care, guidance and companionship and grief, and I think this is an area where the law needs to change.

Either way, if you have suffered loss of a loved one, give me a call. I feel strongly about these kinds of cases and have made it a personal mission to do everything I can for families like yours.

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