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Who can file wrongful death lawsuit, and what is recoverable?

Upon the unexpected death of a loved one, the pain can be unbearable. Learning that his or her death resulted from another person's negligence can exacerbate the trauma, and those left behind may wish to see justice done. However, if a criminal court sends such a person to jail, the surviving family members are left facing unanticipated expenses and the loss of his or her support and care. This is where a wrongful death claim can bring relief.

Because a deceased person cannot file a civil lawsuit for recovery of damages, the British Columbia law allows a surviving spouse -- or common-law partner -- to pursue recovery of damages. This is done by filing a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the person who is deemed responsible for the death. In some circumstances, the court may allow surviving children of the deceased or other dependents to file such a claim in the absence of a surviving spouse.

The losses that can typically be included in documented claims include medical expenses, the costs related to end-of-life expenses and other financial losses. If justified, the court may consider emotional damages such as loss of support, companionship and parental services. One example is a man who helped his parents financially before his wrongful death. With appropriately documented details, the court may enter a monetary judgment that will hold the defendant liable to pay an amount of money toward the care of the parents.

This shows that there is no single pattern by which wrongful death claims are navigated in a British Columbia civil court. Surviving family members may seek the support of an experienced wrongful death lawyer to help them format the claims. A skilled lawyer can assess the circumstances of the surviving loved ones and provide guidance as to who can pursue recovery and what will be recoverable. He or she can also assist with establishing negligence that will be necessary before the court will adjudicate the claims and enter monetary judgments.

Source: FindLaw, "Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?", Le Trinh, Accessed on Dec. 3, 2016

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