Who Can Sue After an Accident? Just the Injured Person or Can Other Members of the Family Also Sue?
When a Family Member Suffered Injuries Due to the Negligence of Another Person Resulting In Adverse Affects to Other Family Members Those Other Family Members May Sue the Negligent Person.
Understanding the Right to Sue When a Family Member is Injured
When a family member is injured, there are often indirect consequences to other immediate family members living within the household such as the need to 'pick up slack' in chores, among other things, on behalf of the injured family member. When close members of the family suffer adverse lifestyle affects due to the tortious injury of another family member, section 61 of the Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.3 provides an independent right of action for those dependent family members who, suffer indirect harms due to the wrongful death or injury of the other family member.
Are Family Members Able to Sue For Injuries to Another Family Member?
Typically, the law works in such a way as to limit the right to sue to those persons who were directly injured by a wrongdoer (whether accidental or otherwise). To some degree, this makes sense - for example, if your neighbour is injured in a car accident, you are unable to sue the person that injured your neighbour! Even if the neighbours injuries are such that you lend a hand, you are unable to sue for the stress and inconvenience caused to you because of an injury to your neighbour.
However, in some circumstances, whereas the person injured is a close family member per the Family Law Act, certain family members may rightfully sue for inconveniences and sufferings. This applies especially so when the injury to the family member greatly impacts the uninjured family members.
Although this right to sue would seem obvious where severe accidents cause serious injury to a person with consequential affect upon family members, section 61 of the Family Law Act provides such rights even when somewhat mild injuries, and mild consequential inconveniences, affect family members; and accordingly, the right for family members to sue can, and does, arise within Small Claims Court cases. Specifically, section 61(1) of the Family Law Act provides such rights to immediate family members and some extended family members whereas it is stated:
If a person is injured or killed by the fault or neglect of another under circumstances where the person is entitled to recover damages, or would have been entitled if not killed, the spouse, as defined in Part III (Support Obligations), children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of the person are entitled to recover their pecuniary loss resulting from the injury or death from the person from whom the person injured or killed is entitled to recover or would have been entitled if not killed, and to maintain an action for the purpose in a court of competent jurisdiction.
Damages As May Be Claimed
The damages (reward for losses) that a dependent person may claim are very broad ranging from actual damages (specifically measurable expenses) to general damages (immeasurable losses such as inconvenience, stress, loss of or lesser marital consortium, etc.). The breadth of the claimable damages is prescribed by section 61(2) of the Family Law Act as including:
The damages recoverable in a claim under subsection (1) may include:
(a) actual expenses reasonably incurred for the benefit of the person injured or killed;
(b) actual funeral expenses reasonably incurred;
(c) a reasonable allowance for travel expenses actually incurred in visiting the person during his or her treatment or recovery;
(d) where, as a result of the injury, the claimant provides nursing, housekeeping or other services for the person, a reasonable allowance for loss of income or the value of the services; and
(e) an amount to compensate for the loss of guidance, care and companionship that the claimant might reasonably have expected to receive from the person if the injury or death had not occurred.
Of interest, the term "injuries" is undefined within the Family Act Law; and accordingly, the scope and breadth of the types of injuries suffered appear as unlimited well beyond the first thoughts that injuries must involve some bodily harm. Even if the injured person has suffered an acute depression without any actual physical bodily harm, a right of action to the dependent family members may exist where the dependent family members are consequently affected. This could be the case where a wrongdoer engaged in a psychological infliction upon the injured person and the resulting stress cascades through the household.
Small Claims Court, monetary jurisdiction
In some circumstances, the combination of the sum of claims brought by the injured person as well as the sum of the claims brought by the dependent family members may appear to exceed the Small Claims Court monetary jurisdiction, which is $35,000 as of January 2020; however, as each Plaintiff is a separate claimant, each has an independent right of action to bring claims for compensation up to the limit of the court. Accordingly, where the injured person as well dependent family members each claim $35,000 or less, the collective total may exceed $35,000 so long as the individual claims are $35,000 or less.
When a fellow member of the family is injured, and others within the family unit need to pick up the slack for various chores, among other things, the family members who suffer harm via consequent inconvenience and disruption to regular life, while without any direct injuries, may bring litigation against the person who harmed the injured family member.