The economic cost of a severe injury is nothing in comparison to the costs incurred by the victim and their family. This is why the Family Law Act allows the family members of personal injury victims to pursue compensation, in some cases.
If another person’s negligence led to the injury or death of a loved one, you may be able to make a claim under the Family Law Act. There are a number of damages defined by the Act and access to these may help ease the devastating economic and emotional impact of your loss.
What Is a Family Law Act Claim?
Motor vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, slips and falls – all of these can lead to severe injuries. In some cases, these injuries affect a victim’s ability to work and enjoy the same quality of life as they did prior to the accident. These debilitating injuries can also have a profound impact on the family members who were dependent on the victim for care, companionship, and guidance.
Section 61(1) of the Family Law Act (FLA) addresses these losses. It allows family members to recover damages when the injury or death of a loved one was the result of the negligence of another person or another circumstance where the victim is entitled to recover damages. It also gives some family members the right to pursue those damages on behalf of a deceased family member.
Who Can Make a Claim?
Section 61(1) of the FLA defines who may be a plaintiff in a family law claim. A spouse, child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, or sibling of an injured or deceased person can make a claim for damages under the FLA definition.
The term “spouse” is defined in one of two ways. A spouse is someone who is married to the victim or someone who cohabitated with them continuously for no less than three years. The FLA also allows someone who is in a relationship of some permanence with the victim in cases where they are the parents of a child to pursue damages.
The FLA also defines child-parent relationships with some flexibility. “Child”, under the Act, doesn’t necessarily refer to a biological child. Instead, a child is a person whom a parent has demonstrated intent to treat as a member of their family. The exception to this is if the child has been placed in a foster home by a person who has lawful custody over them.
Of course, the FLA cannot and does not cover all the possible configurations of families that exist in Ontario. Extended family members who don’t meet these criteria will not be able to pursue compensation for any damages incurred as a result of their loved one’s injury or death.
What Damages Can Be Recovered?
There are a number of damages that can be claimed through the FLA. These include:
- Funeral expenses
- Travel expenses for visiting the victim while they’re hospitalized or treated
- Expenses incurred for the benefit of the victim
- Compensation for the loss of care, companionship, or guidance
- Compensation for the loss of value of services (i.e. housekeeping, nursing, etc.)
In the case that the victim was also negligent in the accident and that negligence contributed to their injury or death, this compensation may be limited.
How Much Are Family Members Entitled To?
The exact amount that family members are entitled to varies greatly. This is especially true in regard to compensation for the loss of care, companionship, and guidance.
In order to determine an amount, the court considers:
- The age, physical condition, and mental condition of the claimant
- The intimacy and quality of relationship between the claimant and the victim
- The living situation of the claimant and victim (i.e. whether they lived together or the frequency of visits between them)
- The degree of emotional self-sufficiency of the claimant
- The joint life expectancy of the victim and the claimant
Every FLA claim is different, and the amount of compensation awarded by the court depends on the specific relationship between claimants and victims.
Making an FLA Claim
The FLA gives family members who are impacted by the injury or death of a loved one the right to pursue compensation for their losses. If you have a loved one who was injured or killed as a result of an accident or someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to damages that cover everything from funeral and travel expenses to compensation for the loss of care, companionship, or guidance.
Navigating a family law claim is a complex task that only adds to the emotional distress you’re likely feeling after a loved one is involved in an accident. Let us shoulder that burden and guide you through this process with professionalism and expertise.