Wrongful death claims 101: Everything you need to know

Wrongful Death Claims 101: Everything You Need to Know

An estimated 28,000 Canadians tragically lose their lives yearly due to medical errors. These alarming fatality figures rank closely behind heart disease and cancer, highlighting the gravity of this issue.

The untimely death of a family member is a highly traumatic experience that may leave deep emotional scars. When the negligence of a healthcare professional is the cause of this tragic loss, grief and anguish are further intensified.

Wrongful death claims provide a legal avenue for holding the responsible parties accountable for their actions and pursuing compensation to alleviate the financial and emotional burdens endured by the surviving family members.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of wrongful death claims, specifically focusing on their relationship to medical malpractice cases and how a medical negligence lawyer can assist families during these challenging times.

Understanding Wrongful Death Cases and Medical Malpractice

Wrongful death cases involve legal matters surrounding the untimely loss of a person’s life due to another party’s recklessness, negligence, or intentional misconduct. These cases aim to provide justice and compensation to the surviving family members or the deceased person’s estate.

Wrongful death cases can stem from a number of incidents. In medical malpractice cases, wrongful death can occur when a healthcare provider’s negligence directly results in the death of a patient. Particular cases of medical errors that have the potential to result in a wrongful death include:

  • Wrong-site surgeries
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Post-surgical complications
  • Inadequate treatment
  • Drug-related issues
  • Negligence in the emergency room
  • Misdiagnosis

Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim Rooted in Medical Malpractice

If the following criteria are met, the patient’s family members or legal representatives may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for the damages they have sustained.

Consulting with medical malpractice lawyers on wrongful death cases is essential to evaluate the specific circumstances and determine the best legal action.

Duty of Care

It must be proven that the healthcare professional had a duty of care towards the patient. This duty is generally established by the existence of a doctor-patient relationship. Examples of demonstrating duty of care towards a patient include:

  • Conducting a thorough medical history evaluation.
  • Adequately investigating the patient’s symptoms and complaints.
  • Formulating proper differential diagnoses based on the available information.
  • Referring the patient to specialists when necessary.
  • Offering a reasonable and appropriate course of treatment.
  • Providing further follow-up care if it is reasonably required.

Breach of Duty

Once the duty of care is established, the claimant must show that the healthcare professional deviated from the accepted norms and practices within their field, and that this deviation was a significant factor leading to the patient’s death.


Causation is crucial in a medical malpractice wrongful death claim. It requires establishing a direct link between the healthcare provider’s breach of duty and the patient’s death.

The plaintiff must demonstrate that the negligent act or omission directly caused or significantly contributed to the patient’s demise. This often involves expert medical testimony to establish the causal relationship between negligence and the fatal outcome.


In medical malpractice cases, damages refer to the measurable injuries, losses, or harm suffered by the surviving family members due to the death caused by medical negligence. These damages can be economic and non-economic, and are essential in establishing a wrongful death claim.

Other Key Insights Into Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death Claims

Here are some additional crucial considerations regarding medical malpractice wrongful death claims:

Expert Testimony

In a wrongful death claim rooted in medical malpractice, the plaintiff’s lawyer must obtain well-supported opinions from expert medical witnesses who are qualified and credible. These expert witnesses serve a number of important purposes, such as the following:

  • Expert witnesses help establish the standard of care required in a particular situation. They offer professional opinions regarding the actions a competent and skilled healthcare provider would have taken in similar circumstances.
  • By comparing the defendant’s actions to this standard, it becomes evident whether or not the defendant met the required level of care.
  • Expert witnesses help evaluate the severity and permanency of the plaintiff’s injuries or damages.
  • They provide professional opinions on the extent of the injuries, the likely need for future medical care and services, and the associated costs.

Statute of Limitations

Wrongful death claims are subject to specific filing deadlines known as statutes of limitations. For instance, in Ontario, the usual time limit to initiate a claim is generally two years from your loved one’s passing date.

Failing to file your claim within the specified timeframe can jeopardize your chance to pursue compensation for the loss of your loved one.


If successful, a medical malpractice wrongful death claim can result in compensation for the surviving family members. The types of compensation awarded may include:

  • Economic damages: This includes medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of financial support, and any other measurable financial losses incurred due to the death.
  • Non-economic damages: These damages compensate for the emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and the impact of the loss on the surviving family members’ quality of life.
  • Punitive damages: On rare occasions, punitive damages may be awarded if the healthcare provider’s conduct is deemed particularly egregious. Punitive damages are intended to penalize the defendant and deter future misconduct.

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can provide valuable guidance, properly addressing these elements and establishing a compelling case for compensation and justice.

Who can file a medical malpractice wrongful death claim?

In Canada, provincial and territorial laws generally determine the eligibility to file a medical malpractice wrongful death claim. While the specific requirements may vary slightly across jurisdictions, the following individuals are typically allowed to file such a claim:

Immediate Family Members

Spouses, parents, and children of the deceased are commonly eligible to file a wrongful death claim. They are considered primary beneficiaries due to their direct relationship with the deceased.

Dependent Family Members

In certain situations, dependent family members who relied on the deceased for financial support may have the opportunity to pursue a wrongful death claim. This category can encompass siblings, grandparents, or other relatives financially dependent on the deceased individual.

Legal Representatives of the Estate

In situations where there are no immediate family members or financial dependents, the legal representative of the deceased’s estate may have the right to file a medical malpractice wrongful death claim. This representative is typically appointed by the court or designated in the deceased’s will.

The estate representative acts on behalf of the estate and seeks compensation for the losses suffered by the estate, including financial expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the wrongful death.

Medical malpractice cases involve intricate legal procedures, strict filing deadlines, and other specific requirements. By enlisting the services of a lawyer, you gain access to their specialized knowledge in handling the intricacies of your case, ensuring precise and timely filing of all essential documents.

Trusted Medical Negligence Lawyers: Sommers Roth & Elmaleh’s 40-Year Expertise

The Sommers Roth & Elmaleh team of medical negligence lawyers is dedicated to offering legal support to individuals and families impacted by medical errors, negligence, or severe injuries.

Our legal services reach beyond the boundaries of Toronto and Ontario, ensuring assistance to clients across multiple provinces throughout Canada, including Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec.

Prompt action is crucial in these cases since there are time restrictions on filing a claim. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation at 1-844-940-2386 or through our website.

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The information on this page is provided for general information purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice. It does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Readers should seek specific legal advice regarding any specific legal issues. We do not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or quality of the information on this page. The posts on this page are current as of their original date of publication, but they should not be relied upon as timely, accurate or fit for any particular purpose.

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    If you have been affected by medical malpractice anywhere in Canada contact us for a free consultation.
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    A lawyer from Sommers Roth & Elmaleh will be in touch with you as soon as possible. Please note that no lawyer-client, advisory, or fiduciary relationship is created by your inquiry. All information provided is confidential.

    The above information is not legal advice. Past results of cases and recoveries by our medical malpractice lawyers against hospitals, doctors, midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not necessarily indicative of future results. The amounts recovered and other litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases.

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