There remains an ongoing debate amongst those in the legal and insurance profession of the adequacy of compensation when someone dies as a result of the negligence of another.
Under our current laws, the only individuals who can seek compensation for the death is the spouse, parents, and children. Siblings cannot make a claim.
Further, claims of this nature, with minor exceptions, are for calculated economic losses only. In other words, there is no compensation allowed for pain and suffering for the death of a loved one. While this still allows for large economic compensation claims to be advanced by surviving spouses, or by young children for the death of a parent, it does leave open situations with tragically unjust results.
For instance, if your elderly retired parent is killed in a car accident as a result of someone else’s fault, and you seek compensation from the person who caused their death, your compensation as their child will be very limited. It will be very difficult for you to show any economic loss as a result of their untimely death. At best, claims are advanced for loss of services, such as babysitting, help around the home, etc. However, the value of these in an elderly person can be quite low, depending on the circumstances.
The situation becomes even more unjust in the traumatic death of a young child. If your young son or daughter is tragically killed in a car accident, achieving compensation from the person who caused their death is very difficult. Apart from the initial expenses, such as a funeral, showing an economic loss from the passing of a young child is nearly impossible. If the child is older – perhaps in the mid to late teens – and if an argument can be made that the child would have helped to support you as a parent as they aged – then economic compensation can sometimes be achieved for this. However, generally speaking, showing an economic loss for the death of a young child is very difficult.
In my opinion, the manner in which compensation is determined for cases of fatal accidents creates inadequate and unjust results. While the compensation awarded to surviving spouses and younger children of a deceased parent may prove to be adequate as a result of the significant economic loss which can be shown, the requirement of showing an economic loss for the untimely death of an elderly retired person, or a young child, should be changed. This would help to ensure greater fairness to the surviving family members.