Impaired Driving is a primary Cause of Wrongful Death

Posted by Stevenson Whelton MacDonald & Swan
January 07, 2019

In a recent review of driving fatalities, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) Canada reminded us that motor vehicle accidents involving an alcohol-impaired or drug-impaired driver are a leading cause of criminal death in Canada.   On average, as many as 4 people are killed every day in Canada in crashes involving an impaired driver.   Impaired driving accidents may involve cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, motorboats or any other motorized vehicle.  However, accident statistics tend to be under-reported because they often don’t include accidents on private land, First Nation’s roads, Crown Land, Military Bases and many off-road crashes.

Based on 2014 accident statistics, 55.4 per cent of accidents resulting in a driver fatality involved a person who tested positive for drugs and/or alcohol.  An alarming 27 per cent of these deaths involved drivers who tested positive for drugs only; 13 per cent involved drivers testing positive only for alcohol; and 15.5 per cent of cases indicated consumption of both alcohol and drugs.

The potentially deadly combination of driving and alcohol was brought home in November 2018 when a 27-year-old Mississauga man was tragically killed after the car in which he was a passenger left the road, flipped over and landed on rocks along the shore of Lake Ontario.  The single-car collision occurred near the dead end of Maple Grove Dr. in Oakville and led to criminal charges against the 22-year-old driver.  The driver is a recently hired Peel Region Paramedic, and was charged with refusing to provide a breath sample and impaired driving causing death.

Making a Wrongful Death Claim

When motor vehicle accidents are caused by negligence, such as impaired driving, close family members are entitled to sue for damages (i.e. when the deceased person could have filed a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived the crash).  This type of tort action is referred to as a wrongful death claim and is governed by the Family Law Act.  A family member may file a wrongful death lawsuit whether or not the accident was intentional or unintentional, as long as the death resulted from a negligent action.

Certainly, no amount of money can compensate anyone for the loss of a loved one. However, under the Act, close family members, including a spouse, parents, children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren can seek compensation for any financial losses they incurred, as well as for the loss of guidance, care and companionship due to the death of their loved one. 

Financial losses for which a family member may seek to be compensated include: loss of any income which would have been received if the death had not occurred; loss of income for the claimant due to their personal grieving, pain and suffering: the cost of child care or household services which would have been provided by the deceased; funeral and burial expenses; costs of travel to visit the loved one before they passed away; and miscellaneous expenses such as drugs and hospital care provided to the deceased person before their death.

Disclaimer: Our blog is intended to inform our existing and prospective clients about topics pertinent to their lives. While our goal is to provide accurate and factual information, this in no way should be taken as legal advice or applied to specific cases. It is in your best interest to contact a licenced and practising lawyer for legal representation, as matters of the law are often complicated and cannot be fully assessed without knowing all of the details of a case.