Compensation for Wrongful Death in Nova Scotia

When a person dies, it does not only impact them, but their loved ones as well. An untimely death can be devastating for the family, not just emotionally, but financially as well.

If a death was the result of someone’s wrong or negligent behaviour, then their loved ones may be able to receive financial compensation for their loss through a wrongful death claim.

If you are reading this following the loss of a loved one, please accept our condolences.

While no amount of money could ever replace a loved one, compensation can help to alleviate the financial strain which can accompany such a loss. Compensation can include funeral expenses, loss of guidance, and reimbursement of expenses for medical care.

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

When it comes to pursuing a wrongful death claim, there are a limited number of people who can do this. Only a family member or the executor of the deceased’s estate can pursue this claim. Further, the claim must be for the benefit of the spouse, common-law partner, parents, or children of the deceased. Siblings are not allowed to file a wrongful death claim in Nova Scotia.

When considering what compensation to provide, a court will take into account the relationship of the person pursuing the claim to the deceased. For example, if dealing with a spouse, the court may take into account things such as the length of their relationship, if they had children, and how entwined their assets were.

Remember: in Nova Scotia, a wrongful death claim must be filed within one year of the date of death. If you fail to meet this deadline, you may have lost your ability to seek compensation.

What is Compensation Provided For?

Compensation is provided for the finances loved ones have had to use as a result of the death, as well as financial losses that would not have existed without the death. This can include funeral expenses, medical bills, and loss of care, guidance, and companionship.

Several different types of compensation available in Nova Scotia are outlined below.

Funeral Expenses

If funeral expenses are paid for by family members, then damages may be awarded to reimburse reasonably necessary expenses. Such expenses typically include the burial of the deceased, transportation, supplies and services rendered in connection with the funeral. Automobile insurance may also cover up to $2500 of funeral expenses in Nova Scotia.

In an action brought under this Act where funeral expenses have been incurred by the parties for whose benefit the action is brought, damages may be awarded for reasonable necessary expenses of the burial of the deceased, including transportation and things supplied and services rendered in connection therewith.

Loss of Care, Guidance, and Companionship

Loss of care, guidance, and companionship simply refers to the loss of the roles that the deceased person played in a loved one’s life. For children, this loss can come from a lack of parental guidance in the future. For spouses, this can come from their loss of a lifelong companion.

When determining compensation for loss of care, guidance, and companionship, courts will look at how close the relationship was between the deceased and their loved one. This is often the case when looking at spousal relationships. They may take into account factors such as the length of relationships, sharing of assets, and overall compassion and commitment.

It is important to note that younger children often receive larger compensation for loss of care, guidance, and companionship. Courts consider the significant role that the deceased would have played in a child’s life, the lost opportunity to learn from their parent, and how much of a role the deceased would have played in their development.

Ultimately, compensation for loss of care, guidance, and companionship is based off of caselaw, but there is a limited amount of it in Nova Scotia due to very few wrongful death claims going to trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you to determine how much compensation to claim for the loss of care, guidance, and companionship.

Some examples of caselaw in Nova Scotia around loss of care, guidance, and companionship follow:

In Murray Estate v Advocate Contracting Ltd, 2001 NSSC 104, the court awarded $60,000 ($89,000 adjusted for today) to a spouse who had been married to his wife for 13 years before her death. Her relationship with her children was described as warm and compassionate and she played a large role in the house upkeep. The children in this case were awarded $35,000 and $40,000 to a seven and six-year-old respectively ($48,000 and $55,000 adjusted).

In Simpson Estate v Cox, 2006 NSSC 84 where a driver had struck and killed an elderly pedestrian who was found 60% responsible for her accident, the court rejected Murray because although the granddaughter had a special relationship with the grandmother, the judge did not find it comparable to what the husband and children lost in Murray. The court found that both the granddaughter and father were entitled to $10,000 ($12,800 adjusted) for their losses of care, guidance, and companionship, although this amount was limited due to contributory negligence.

Dependency Loss

Dependency loss refers to the financial loss that a deceased’s loved ones will suffer as a result of their death. Many factors are looked at, which ultimately consider the financial support that the deceased had been providing, and the resulting losses which the survivors will suffer.

These factors taken into consideration include, but are not limited to:

  • The wages of the deceased;
  • Life expectancy statistics;
  • Other benefits the deceased received such as pension and life insurance;
  • The surviving family’s income; and
  • The ages of the survivors.

There are several approaches which can be used to calculate dependency loss, including the sole dependency approach, the cross-dependency approach, and the modified sole-dependency approach.

Sole Dependency Approach

The sole dependency approach may be used when the household income is solely provided by the deceased. When calculating, it is assumed that 30% of the deceased’s income is used to their own benefit, while 70% is used to the benefit of the survivors.

As such, compensation will generally be calculated at 70% of the deceased’s income when they were the sole provider of household income.

Cross-Dependency Approach

The cross-dependency approach is usually appropriate when both the deceased and their surviving spouse provided the household income. This approach follows the same process as the sole dependency approach, but also considers the surviving spouse to have saved 30% of their income that they would have spent on the deceased.

This approach can produce absurd results, especially in cases of large differences between the earning levels of each spouse. In fact, using this calculation could even result in a zero value for dependency loss.

At NOVA Injury we do not believe that this approach is ever appropriate because it does not reflect the reality of the relationship or spousal contributions.

Modified Sole-Dependency Approach

The modified sole-dependency approach is similar to the sole dependency approach expressed earlier, however, the modified sole-dependency approach uses a lower dependency rate. A 60% dependency rate is used to calculate the income dependency loss.

Compensation for Valuable Service Losses

Loss of valuable services takes into account the costs which survivors will incur as a result of the deceased’s passing. A court would take into account what household tasks that the deceased usually performed in the household, and then determines the cost to hire replacement labour. This would be turned into an annual cost which can be projected into the future.

Compensation for Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Out of pocket expenses refers to money that was spent by survivors for the benefit of the deceased. This could be costs spent to provide the deceased with some form of comfort while they were in the hospital.

Compensation for Travel Expenses

Travel expenses may be compensated for travel used to visit the deceased between the time of the injury and the death. This could apply to the price of gas, the price to hire a taxi, or the price to take the bus to visit the deceased. If you have receipts or credit card statements, these can be used to provide evidence for your claim.

Reimbursement for Medical Bills and Other Care Services

Compensation can also be provided for any medical bills which are not covered, as well as other services such as nursing or housekeeping necessary to care for the deceased between the time of the injury and their death. This could include reimbursement for hiring a nurse for at home care for the deceased.

Contributory Negligence

In some cases, a driver will argue that an individual contributed to their wrongful death, this is an argument for contributory negligence. In cases where this is successfully argued, the provided to the family for a fatal injury claim may be reduced.

To ensure your fatal injury claim is successful, you should consider whether an argument of this type may be used in your fatal injury claim and consider arguments against it.

How Can NOVA Injury Help?

At NOVA Injury Law we will act on your behalf to advocate for your wrongful death claim. Our legal team will help you to navigate through the law in Nova Scotia around wrongful death claims and help to ensure that you receive the necessary compensation to support you and your family following a loved one’s passing. No amount of money can replace a loved one, but financial support can help to ease an emotionally and financially stressful situation.

The whole idea behind an injury claim is to compensate victims for their losses – and this is a wide-ranging task with unique facts in each case. To learn more about NOVA Injury Law’s approach to protecting injury victims’ rights, contact us now to book your free Case Review. During the free Case Review process, we will give you our honest opinion about your case, how your claim might be worth, and what you should consider as your next steps.

If you are in need of legal advice or representation for your wrongful death claim in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or anywhere in Atlantic Canada, our personal injury lawyers are here to help. Contact us today and tell us more about your claim – we are here to help.