COLUMN: What to do when you lose a loved one in an accident

Understanding the Family Compensation Act

In the winter months, we are constantly being reminded of statistics for road deaths on holiday weekends.

We all know accidents can happen, and when they result in the death of a loved one it is important to understand that remaining family members may be entitled to compensation under the Family Compensation Act (the FCA).

The FCA is designed to compensate families for loss when a family member dies in a non-work related accident, such as a car accident.

A claim brought under the FCA must be for the benefit of a spouse, parent or child of the deceased, and must be brought by and in the name of the deceased’s personal representative.

Spouses, parents and children are expressly defined in the FCA and therefore it is not always obvious who may claim compensation, and who may not.

For example, step-parents, step-children and grand-parents can sometimes fit the various definitions.

A recent case in BC called Stegemann v Pasemko, is an example of what a court might award to a person claiming under the FCA.  In that case, a 50 year-old mother with two young children was killed in a motor vehicle accident. Her husband brought an action against the driver who caused the accident.

He was awarded damages for loss of dependency, special expenses, loss of household services, and loss of inheritance.  In addition, both of the couples’ young children received awards for loss of care, guidance and affection, loss of dependency, loss of household services, loss of child care services and loss of inheritance.

In addition, the Act provides a claim in damages for medical or hospital expenses which would have been recoverable by the person injured if death had not ensued, and as well for reasonable expenses relating to the funeral.

The FCA has been criticized in recent years for not providing a mechanism to receive compensation for pain, suffering or other emotional aspects associated with a fatal accident and the resulting death.  However, the courts have made it clear that the FCA does not compensate an individual for the sorrow or grief they may have suffered as a result of the loss of a close family member.

While it is impossible to put a price tag on the loss suffered when a loved one is killed, there are monetary entitlements through compensation under the Act to help those left behind cope.

If you have lost a loved one in an accident, you should consult a lawyer to see if compensation may be available to you or other family members through the FCA.

Many personal injury lawyers will offer a free initial consultation, during which they can advise you if you are entitled to family compensation benefits.


–Doug is a partner with RDM Lawyers LLP in Abbotsford.  He practices in the areas of personal injury law and labor and employment law.  Comments or questions about this article can be sent to

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