Fatal Car Accident Compensation cases have many unique aspects compared to a typical personal injury case. Fortunately, fatal accident cases are less common than injury cases, however, this leads to many legal counsel being unfamiliar with the unique aspects of fatal accident law.

The first unique aspect is that, the amount of compensation is a function of who is left behind as far as family members and dependents. In a personal injury case, of course, it is only the injured victim who is the subject of scrutiny.

In a fatal accident case, dependents may consist of a surviving spouse or interdependent partner (with an interdependent partner defined in Alberta as living together for three years or more, or if there’s a child of the relationship then there is not a minimum time period), minor children, orphans from a single-parent family, a dependent adult, or elderly parents who were dependent on the deceased. The latter category of elderly parents is a filial piety case which is a function of the culture, for example, in many Asian cultures it is expected and routine for children to support their elderly parents. Therefore, if a child is killed the elderly parents may have a less of dependency claim against the wrongdoer.

Fatal Accident Claims

In this blog, we discuss one aspect which forms the subject of some litigation and negotiation in fatal accident cases as it affects the settlement amount: The age at which dependent children will become independent and thus no longer require a stream of money for their support.

Dependent children can include children from a previous marriage or family to whom the deceased was paying child support, and not just the deceased’s current children from his current family. The starting point for self-sufficiency is completion of high school, age 18 or postsecondary education between the ages of 21 or 23, with age 22 being the most common.

However, many fatal accident lawyers fail to appreciate that the age at which dependent children become self-sufficient can vary widely, especially in the last few years. There are statistics indicate that children will remain dependent upon their parents even after completion of postsecondary education at age 23. This is a result of the propensity today towards a delayed age at marriage, the tendency for young adults to return to their parents’ home after the initial departure (boomerang kids), lack of good paying jobs, and finally the decision by the child to pursue further education levels beyond the first degree. Finally, in some locations in larger centres, the decision to stay dependent on the parental home includes higher house prices which make owning a home unaffordable when combined with the cost of paying off student loans.

Recent research from 2010 found that, six out of ten boomer parents were providing financial support averaging almost $4,000 per year to their adult children. The majority of boomer parents also said they expect their children to be financially self-sufficient by age 25 (not age 22 as used by most fatal accident lawyers). To state the foregoing statistic another way, almost half of adult children born to boomer parents will not be financially self-sufficient by age 25, yet many fatal accident lawyers are settling loss of dependency claims of a mom or dad for these children at the age of 22. This undervalues the loss of dependency amount for these children as a result of the loss of a mother or father, and thus under compensates the dependent children in a fatal accident compensation claim.