Losing a close family member or loved one is one of the most challenging experiences that a person can go through. Coping with a loved one’s death is even more complicated if the death resulted from someone else’s careless, reckless, negligent, or intentional conduct. Although no amount of monetary damages can ever bring back your lost loved one, a successful wrongful death settlement or lawsuit can help family members experience closure and justice.
The at-fault party’s insurance company may pay the proceeds of a wrongful death settlement to the deceased individual’s parents, spouse, children, or interdependent adult partner, depending on the circumstances. This happens under the Fatal Accidents Act. Although any of these family members can file the claim or lawsuit, surviving family members are only allowed to bring a single claim arising from their loved one’s death.
Moreover, when the insurance company pays out the wrongful death claim, they may compensate the surviving family members for various damages, depending on the situation.
If you lost a close family member because of another person‘s wrongful act, you have legal rights and options that you can consider. First and foremost, you should have a skilled wrongful death lawyer on your side advocating for you throughout the claims-filing and litigation processes. Your lawyer can file the claim on your behalf and, if necessary, pursue litigation in the court system to maximize the wrongful death compensation you and other family members recover.
Potential Bereavement Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim
When an insurance company pays a wrongful death settlement, it should compensate the affected individuals for their bereavement resulting from the decedent’s death. The purpose of bereavement damages and a wrongful death claim is to compensate individuals for the sadness, mental suffering, and emotional distress they experienced due to their loved one’s untimely death.
In Alberta, any qualified wrongful death claimant can recover certain monetary compensation for their bereavement, and insurance companies should pay out these damages.
First, if the deceased individual’s parents are still living, they can recover a maximum of $82,000. If both parents are still alive at the time of the decedent’s death, the insurance company must divide these proceeds between them. In addition, each of the decedent’s living children can receive $49,000 in bereavement damages. The decedent’s step-children and grandchildren, however, do not fall within this category. That may change if there is a formal adoption in place.
Moreover, the deceased individual’s spouse or interdependent partner can recover a maximum of $82,000 in bereavement damages. The decedent’s brothers and sisters, however, cannot make a claim for bereavement.
When considering recoverable bereavement damages in a wrongful death settlement or lawsuit, these total damage amounts are not guaranteed. As a matter of fact, insurance companies and their adjusters will do everything they possibly can to avoid paying out the full amounts—or anything at all—to settle a wrongful death claim. Plus, the process can be tedious and difficult particularly when steps like appointing an executor are required or when separate claimants have different lawyers.
This is because insurance companies, as profitable big businesses, want to do everything they can to keep their money in-house.
Given everything riding on the line in a wrongful death settlement or lawsuit, you should have a skilled lawyer representing you and advocating for your legal interests every step of the way. Your lawyer can handle all insurance company negotiations and deal with settlement adjusters effectively and efficiently.
Your lawyer can also highlight the strengths of your wrongful death claim when pursuing favourable settlement compensation on your behalf. If the adjuster does not budge, your lawyer can always threaten them with litigation and, if necessary, may file a lawsuit in court.
How Do Wrongful Death Claims and Lawsuits Frequently Arise?
A wrongful death claim or lawsuit may arise when an individual or entity causes a fatal accident due to intentional, negligent, reckless, or careless behaviour. Some of the most common accidents that can lead to a wrongful death settlement include premises accidents, like slip-and-falls, that occur on someone else’s property, along with motor vehicle accidents.
Premises accidents typically happen when property owners fail to maintain their properties reasonably and safeguard against potential hazardous conditions and equipment on their property. If they fail to warn about or correct a hazard on their property within a reasonable time, and a fatal accident happens, they and their insurance companies can be responsible for wrongful death settlement damages.
Similarly, fatal motor vehicle accidents, including those that involve motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, cars, and trucks, typically result from driver negligence. In most fatal car accident scenarios, the at-fault driver operates their vehicle negligently by violating one or more traffic laws, engaging in distracted driving, or operating their vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
If you lost a loved one in one of these accidents that occurred because of another person’s negligent or intentional act or omission, you should talk to a wrongful death lawyer in your area right away. Your lawyer can bring a timely wrongful death claim on your behalf right away and pursue the settlement damages that you deserve from the at-fault party’s insurance company.
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What if a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Becomes Necessary?
Sometimes, despite a wrongful death lawyer’s best efforts, the insurance company for the at-fault party refuses to offer fair settlement compensation. In some cases, this may happen because the insurance company is disputing fault for the subject accident. At other times, the insurance company may simply be trying to save money and avoid paying out the compensation that a wrongful death claimant rightfully deserves.
No matter the situation, litigation may become necessary to recover the total monetary value of a wrongful death claim. Even if your wrongful death lawyer files a lawsuit in court on your behalf, the claim can still settle while the case is in litigation. Most wrongful death claims do settle at some point because insurance companies do not want the expense of having to go to trial.
During litigation, your lawyer may continue their settlement negotiations with the insurance company adjuster, and if the claim settles, it will end. The insurance company will then pay out the wrongful death settlement damages to the claimant or to the executor of the deceased individual’s estate.
However, if the case does not resolve, it will continue through litigation, and the parties will likely engage in discovery. During discovery, the parties will answer one another’s written questions, called interrogatories. Moreover, the defence lawyer may take the estate representative’s discovery deposition.
Alberta requires parties in a lawsuit to attempt some form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) such as mediation or arbitration before advancing a claim to trial.
Before a trial, the parties will typically attend a pre-trial or settlement conference with the court. During this hearing, the court will assist the parties and help them facilitate meaningful settlement discussions.
If the case does not resolve at the settlement conference, it will likely proceed to a trial. At trial, a wrongful death lawyer can introduce various types of evidence, including the deceased individual’s medical treatment records, police reports, and lost wage statements from the decedent’s employer, in support of a lost wage dependency claim.
Whether your wrongful death claim resolves via settlement or litigation, your lawyer will advocate for you at all stages of the proceedings and pursue the highest available monetary damages on your behalf.
Proving the Legal Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
The claimant must satisfy their legal burden of proof to receive settlement compensation as part of a wrongful death claim. In a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, the at-fault individual or entity does not need to prove anything in their case. Instead, the legal burden of proof rests entirely with the claimant.
First, wrongful death claimants must establish that another person or entity owed their deceased loved one a duty of care that they violated under the circumstances. For example, the responsible party may have acted unreasonably under the circumstances, broken the law, or engaged in an intentional act that left the accident victim dead. Moreover, the at-fault party’s wrongful act or omission must have caused the subject accident, which in turn caused the deceased individual’s premature death.
Wrongful Death Settlement Damages
Wrongful death claimants may recover monetary damages as part of a settlement, jury verdict, or binding arbitration award. No matter the circumstances, the total damages that wrongful death claimants recover often vary from case to case, depending upon the amount of available insurance coverage, the circumstances surrounding the accident, and the circumstances surrounding the decedent’s death.
First, a wrongful death claimant may be eligible to recover monetary compensation for the deceased individual’s funeral and burial expenses. They can also obtain monetary damages for grief counselling that they had to endure due to their loved one’s untimely death.
Next, a wrongful death claimant may pursue monetary compensation for the medical care that their deceased loved one underwent from the time of their accident up until their death. Furthermore, if the decedent’s family members relied upon the decedent for their earned income, then the claimant can make a claim for future lost wages.
If you lost a loved one in an accident that someone else caused, a compassionate wrongful death lawyer in your area can advocate for you and pursue all of these damages on your behalf.
Deadline to File a Wrongful Death Claim Seeking Settlement Compensation
Wrongful death claimants in Alberta have a minimal period in which to pursue monetary damages via settlement or litigation. In every wrongful death claim, absent some extremely limited exceptions, a claimant must file a lawsuit in the court system within precisely two years of their loved one’s death.
If they miss this statutory deadline, even by as little as one day, they waive their right to recover compensation via a settlement or a lawsuit. Since this statutory deadline is highly unforgiving, you should contact a knowledgeable and compassionate wrongful death lawyer in your area as quickly as possible after your loved one’s death.
A skilled wrongful death lawyer will immediately file a lawsuit in your case to protect the statute of limitations from running. While you must file your lawsuit within two years of the accident victim’s death, the case does not need to reach its conclusion within that two-year timeframe. As long as a lawyer files suit on your behalf, the statute remains protected.
Next, your lawyer can investigate the circumstances surrounding your loved one’s death and pursue the settlement compensation you deserve to recover. If the at-fault party’s insurance company or their adjuster becomes difficult, your lawyer can explore your litigation options and, if necessary, take your case to a civil jury trial or binding arbitration proceeding to recover favourable monetary damages.
Speak with a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Wrongful Death Lawyer in Your Area Today
Losing a close family member or a loved one in an accident is a truly heartbreaking experience. Fortunately, when you have a skilled and compassionate wrongful death lawyer advocating for you, the legal process becomes easier. While you grieve the death of your loved one, your lawyer can begin handling the legal aspects of your claim, including negotiating with the insurance carrier and, if necessary, filing a lawsuit to pursue monetary damages through litigation.
In addition to representing you at all court proceedings throughout the process, your lawyer can answer all of your legal questions and help you decide on the best course of action for your wrongful death case. If the insurance company adjuster places a settlement offer on the table, your lawyer can help you decide whether that offer is a good offer under the circumstances—and whether you should consider accepting it.
Finally, your lawyer will keep you abreast of all new developments in your case, including higher settlement offers and litigation options. When you have a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer advocating for you during your case, you can rest assured that they will safeguard your legal interests and help you pursue the damages you need for justice and closure.