Wrongful Death Law Reform in BC Closer to Reality
As previously discussed BC’s Family Compensation Act(the statute dealing with lawsuits for damages for wrongful death in BC) is out of date, inadequate and in need of reform. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of fielding too many phone calls over the years explaining that the wrongful death of many people was seen as worthless in the eyes of the law. Members of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC along with other organizations such as the BC Coalition of People With Disabilities have been working for years to persuade the government that reform is needed in this area of law. It seems all of this effort is slowly but surely paying off.
West Vancouver MLA Ralph Sultan has introduced a Bill which seeks to amend BC’s outdated Family Compensation Act. Mr. Sultan stated as follows when introducing the Bill “The Family Compensation Act Amendment Act would permit the court to award damages up to specified limits for grief, and loss of guidance, care, and companionship to spouses of deceased persons as well as parents and children…This amendment is a carbon copy of the statute currently on the books in Alberta granting the potential for the court to grant awards, within limits, for those who have suffered the tragedy of wrongful death. The Family Compensation Act Amendment Act is consistent with the families-first agenda of this government.“
The Bill is titled “The Family Compensation Act Amendment Act” and can be found here. It is designed to provide greater accountability for those who take the life of another in BC and will bring better compensation rights for families who lose a loved one through the wrongful act of another. Specifically it seeks to amend section 3 of the FCA by adding the following provision:
(10) If an action brought under this Act, the court, without reference to any other damages that may be awarded and without evidence of damage, shall award damages for grief and loss of the guidance, care and companionship of the deceased person of
(a) subject to subsection (3), $75,000 to the spouse ofthe deceased person,
(b) $75,000 to the parent or parents of the deceased person to be divided equally if the action is brought for the benefit of both parents, and
(c) $45,000 to each child of the deceased person.
(11) The courts shall not award damages under subsection 10 (a) to the spouse if the spouse was living separate and apart from the deceased person at the time of death.
I should point out that this new Bill is not law yet and likely won’t go beyond first reading before the Legislature’s Spring session closes on June 2, 2011. The proposed amendment is a step in the right direction but can certainly go further in bringing meaningful compensation to those who lose a loved one through others actions. I suggest all who support this much needed reform take a brief moment to contact Ralph Sultan and thank him for tabling this welcome legislation along with making suggestions to improve these amendments before they become law.