While practising personal injury law can be fulfilling work, my heart breaks every time I meet families who have lost a family member in an accident. They never recover from the loss. How could they? They grieve and try to move on. They summon every ounce of energy to get out of bed in the morning and live a ‘normal’ life.
I’m currently acting for four local families who have experienced the loss of a spouse or a child in motor vehicle accidents caused by someone else. They represent a fraction of the number of families out there who have experienced a similar loss. Earlier this year, the OPP released a staggering statistic; there have been more than 3,500 road deaths in Ontario over the last 10 years. I was struck by comments made by Brad Blair, OPP Deputy Commissioner:
“A fatal road crash happens in a split second, but its consequences are far reaching and last for months, years and for some surviving family members, the rest of their lives. Until all drivers stop speeding, driving impaired or distracted and ensure that everyone in their vehicle is buckled in, history will continue to repeat itself and innocent people will continue to die on our roads.”
And, those innocent people have left behind spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters. Far too often, families struggle to cover the cost of funerals. But, that’s just the beginning. If someone, who has been the primary income earner dies, where does that leave his or her dependents? In far too many cases, the survivors feel lost.
While money won’t bring back those who have lost their lives, the funds that families are entitled to remove a bit of the financial pressure. First, a funeral benefit is a lump-sum payment made to someone if they have lost a spouse, a dependant, or someone on whom they were dependent, as a reimbursement for funeral expenses. This total is approximately $6,000. There is also an accidental death (as a result of a motor vehicle collision) benefit for a spouse, or a dependent, or a person dependent on the deceased of $25,000 as well as a $10,000 payment to be shared by dependents.
Further, dependents have the right to sue and claim damages. Many families have no idea about the extent of what they are entitled to recover financially following the loss of someone who was killed by the fault or neglect of another. These can include all funeral expenses; an amount to compensate for the loss of guidance, care, and companionship that the claimant might reasonably have expected to receive from the person if the death had not occurred; lost income; and the loss of dependency (income/financial support/household services).
This is my job… trying to help families who deserve compensation that allows them to move forward with their own lives. It’s not a quick process and it’s certainly wrought with emotion. But, it’s necessary and why personal injury lawyers do what we can to ensure survivors receive the resources that they need.