How a Wrongful Death Case Works in Alberta

The death of a loved one is a tragedy, and no amount of money can help you manage the pain of grief. Yet the death of a loved one also comes with financial complications that can be very difficult to navigate.

In Alberta, wrongful death claims exist to help you pay those expenses. Like most legal matters, making a wrongful death claim is not exactly simple.

Who can make a wrongful death claim?

The Fatal Accidents Act allows the spouse, adult interdependent partner, parent, sibling, or child of the deceased to make a claim. Yet it’s very important to recognize that only one lawsuit may be filed per wrongful death.

That means all the claimants must be included in the claim. The claim may be brought by the deceased’s executor or any eligible family members.

What is a bereavement claim?

This is literally a claim meant to address the sadness and suffering you may be feeling as the result of a loved one’s death.

In Alberta, every claimant receives a pre-set amount for these damages.

  • Each living child may claim $49,000. This does not include step-children or grandchildren.
  • Parents may claim $82,000 with the money divided equally between both living parents.
  • A spouse or interdependent partner may receive $82,000.
  • Siblings may not claim a bereavement benefit.

Note that these pre-set amounts aren’t sure things. In Alberta, insurance companies may reduce these amounts, or keep from paying altogether, either by proving your loved one was at fault for the accident or by claiming contributory negligence which would then reduce your award by the percentage of the loved one’s fault. It’s not a death claim, it is a wrongful death claim, and if the defendant can prove there was no wrongful death then the family can end up with nothing.

This can be extremely jarring and emotionally difficult for the family. Your lawyer will need to prepare you to handle this situation.

Other Damages

If you can prove the wrongful death claim you are eligible to have certain other expenses covered. These include:

  • Reimbursement for expenses incurred while providing medical care to the deceased between the accident and the death.
  • Any travel expenses incurred while visiting between the accident and the death.
  • Funeral expenses.
  • Expenses incurred for grief counseling.
  • Reimbursement for the loss of the deceased’s income if the family was relying on that income. This may include future years of work that the deceased will no longer be able to provide. Usually an economist must help determine the value of these damages.

It’s important to talk to a lawyer so you can file your claim successfully. While insurance companies are unlikely to take a wrongful death claim all the way to court they are likely to try to reduce the award amount, or to try to wriggle out of paying altogether.

It’s our job to help you make that award amount as large as possible. Call us today for a free consultation.

About Donald I.M. Outerbridge

Donald became the Executive Director of Merchant Law Group LLP starting in 1993, nearly 30 years ago. His experience managing law firms at various levels and in multiple provinces across Canada goes back even further to 1981.