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The Impact of Wrongful Death on Kids: Securing Their Future and Well-being

By Matt Lalande in Hurt Kids, Wrongful Dismissal on April 14, 2024

The Impact of Wrongful Death on Kids: Securing Their Future and Well-being

For Kids, the Loss of a Parent is a Terrible Life Altering Event

The loss of a parent or caregiver is a terrible life-altering event for any child, but when that loss is unexpected and the result of a wrongful death, the impact can be even more devastating. Children who experience the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing face unique challenges that can have lasting effects on their emotional, psychological, and financial well-being. In these tragic situations, it is crucial to prioritize the child’s future and take steps to secure their rights and interests.

Wrongful death cases involving children require specialized psychological attention and legal expertise to ensure that their needs are met and their futures are protected. This blog post aims to provide guidance and support for families navigating the complex legal and emotional landscape of wrongful death, with a focus on safeguarding the well-being of the children left behind.

If you are seeking more information about how wrongful death can impact children or about the compensation that a child might deserve after the loss of a parent, we encourage you to call us, no matter where you are in Canada, at 1-844-LALANDE or local in Southern Ontario Ontario at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can send us a confidential inquiry through our website, and we will be happy to get back to you.

Our experienced wrongful death lawyers have not only written extensively on this topic but have represented many kids whose parents were tragically taken from them unnecessarily and unexpectedly. As a result, we can offer valuable insight and advice for families facing these challenging circumstances.

Emotional and Psychological Impact on Children

There’s no doubt that the death of a parent can cause a child to suffer extreme emotional devastation and have profound and lasting effects on a child’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. This early loss can lead to a range of negative outcomes, including anxiety, depression, prolonged grief, difficulty with executive function, and changes in how they approach relationships when they are older.

In 2022, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study on a child’s impact of early parental loss. The researchers conducted a qualitative study of minors who had lost their parents, who were an average age of 16 at the time of the parental death. The study revealed a few important things.

Kids Experience Isolation

Firstly, many kids experienced isolation from their friends, felt misunderstood and often withdrew from friends who did not know how to respond appropriately to their grief. It was also reported that kids frequently withdrew from their peers, choosing solitude not only because of sorrow but also due to feelings of being misunderstood.

Kids try to Suppress Emotions by Keeping Busy.

It was reported that many kids attempted to ignore the reality of their situation by stifling their emotions and diverting their attention to alternative activities. Although these actions could lead to valuable life experiences (like travelling) or academic achievements (such as concentrating on schoolwork), they also interfered with the complete mourning process, likely impacting their emotional growth further.

They Processed Grief Like Adults – but unlike Adults.

While each participant reported a unique process stemming from loss, common themes included “denial and disbelief, anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, and devastation.” Such experiences were typical and reflective not just of Kubler-Ross’s classic stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance— but interestingly, many kids endorsed the feeling of the unique quality of a “world-ending” feeling accompanying early parental loss.

Taking it a bit further, a “world-ending feeling” in the context of early parental loss would encompass an “overwhelming sense of catastrophe” that a child experiences when a parent dies, as parents often symbolize safety and structure in a child’s life. The loss of a parent can disrupt their entire understanding of the world, making everything seem unstable and unrecognizable. This intense grief affects all aspects of a child’s existence, encompassing their emotions, behaviours, and overall life perspective, as they navigate a new reality without their parent’s presence.

Troubling Behaviors

The often turbulent aftermath of losing a parent at a young age frequently results in troubling behaviours. Individuals may engage in poor dietary habits, neglect essential self-care practices such as bathing, and increasingly turn to substances like alcohol and drugs as forms of “self-medication” to cope with or escape the persistent mental anguish.

These substances can temporarily numb overwhelming feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair, providing a short-term escape from the grim reality of their loss. Often, teenagers lack fully developed coping skills to manage such intense emotions or traumatic events effectively. In the absence of healthier coping strategies, drugs and alcohol can seem like viable options to handle their feelings.

Additionally, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to social influences and peer pressure. If they are surrounded by peers who use substances to cope with their problems, they might be more inclined to adopt similar behaviours, seeing it as an acceptable or even effective way to manage grief. The unpredictability of grief can also make teenagers feel helpless and out of control, and using substances might provide them with an illusion of control over their emotional state.

Irrational Feelings of Guilt

When a parent dies unexpectedly, a child may experience overwhelming guilt or feel responsible for the death, a phenomenon known as “magical thinking.” This is particularly common in younger children who do not yet fully understand the complexities of cause and effect. They may believe that their thoughts, actions, or words can influence events in the real world in ways that are not logically connected.

For example, suppose a child disagreed with or was angry with their parent shortly before the parent’s unexpected death. In that case, the child might irrationally believe that their anger or harsh words somehow caused the death. This form of thinking stems from the child’s developmental stage, where they are egocentric, meaning they believe they are the center of all happenings around them.

Additionally, children might feel guilty for things they did or did not do before the parent’s death — such as not obeying the parent or not expressing affection more often. They might think, “If only I had been better, they would still be here.” This guilt is compounded by their inability to reverse the situation, leading to feelings of helplessness and further guilt.

This self-blame is a coping mechanism, albeit a maladaptive one, which can lead to long-term emotional distress if not addressed through supportive counselling and reassurance from other adults and caregivers in their lives.

Financial Consequences after the Wrongful Death of a Parent

While each child’s emotional journey is individualized, requiring significant personal development work, people who have lost parents as youngsters also may need to be protected financially – which is, of course, dependent on the particular situation of each case.

If the parent who died contributed to the household finances, whether solely or with their partner or spouse, then that income is essentially gone. What happens in this type of situation?

In Ontario, when a wrongful death occurs, the surviving family members may be entitled to bring a dependency claim against the party responsible for the death. A dependency claim seeks compensation for the financial losses suffered by the dependents of the deceased person. In the context of a spouse who lost the shared income of another spouse, the claim would focus on how this income loss affects the deceased’s children.

When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse often loses a significant portion of the family’s income. This loss can have a profound impact on the kids, who may have relied on the deceased parent’s income for their basic needs, education, sports, activities, and overall well-being. In a dependency claim, the surviving spouse would seek compensation on behalf of the children for the loss of financial support that the deceased parent would have provided.

To establish a dependency claim, the surviving spouse must demonstrate that the children were financially dependent on the deceased parent. This involves your wrongful death lawyer presenting evidence of the deceased’s income, contribution to household expenses, and support for the children’s needs. The claim would also consider factors such as the kids’ age, education level, and any special needs they may have that would require ongoing financial support.

The compensation awarded in a dependency claim is intended to help the children maintain the standard of living they would have enjoyed had the deceased parent survived. This may include funds for necessities like food, clothing, and shelter, as well as money for education, extracurricular activities, and healthcare expenses. The court will consider the deceased parent’s expected income over their lifetime and the duration of the children’s dependency to determine an appropriate amount of compensation.

Do I need to Hire a Lawyer who Specializes in Wrongful Death?

We can say with 100% certainty – yes. Remember, the plaintiff in wrongful death cases have the burden of proving their losses and showing a Court that you and your loved ones should be placed in the position you were financially, but for the accident.

Wrongful death cases are complex and require a deep understanding of the legal framework, the types of claims that can be made, and the various factors that can impact the outcome. A specialist like Matt Lalande in wrongful death law will have the knowledge, skills, and experience to navigate these complexities and ensure that the surviving family members receive the compensation they deserve. They will be well-versed in the different types of claims that may be applicable, such as Family Law Act claims, dependency claims, and estate claims, and can advise the surviving family members on which claims are most appropriate for their specific situation.

Another important aspect of wrongful death cases in Ontario is the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS), which provides a set of standardized benefits to individuals who have been injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who was at fault. A wrongful death lawyer specializing in this area will have a thorough understanding of the SABS and can help the surviving family members access the benefits to which they are entitled. Furthermore, a wrongful death specialist will have experience working with actuaries and other experts who can help quantify the financial losses suffered by the surviving family members, which is crucial in determining the appropriate compensation amount to seek in a dependency claim or other types of claims.

Remember, the primary goal of insurance companies is to have their defence lawyer minimize the compensation awarded to the dependents or avoid liability altogether. They may do this by:

  • Disputing liability: Defence lawyers may argue that the defendant was not responsible for the death or that the deceased’s own actions contributed to the fatal incident. If the can prove that the defendant was not entirely at fault, the compensation awarded to the dependents may be reduced or denied.
  •  Questioning the dependency: The defence may challenge the extent to which the children were financially dependent on the deceased parent. They may scrutinize the deceased’s income, employment history, and financial contributions to the household to argue that the children’s dependency was not as significant as claimed.
  •  Questioning the marriage: Defence lawyer may try to prove that the relationship was of poor quality or strained. The court would then need to evaluate the evidence presented about the relationship’s quality. This includes looking at communication patterns, shared responsibilities, financial arrangements, and any periods of separation or reconciliation. The court will assess whether the alleged poor state of the relationship indeed resulted in a reduced or negligible dependency.
  •  Questioning remarriage: In cases where the marriage was strained, Defence lawyers may try to minimize or reduce the amount of compensation claimed by showing that the surviving spouse will “move on” quickly and that remarriage is possible. However, this argument is not always successful and depends on the case’s specific circumstances.
  •  Arguing insufficient evidence: Defence Lawyers may contend that the surviving spouse has not provided sufficient evidence to support the dependency claim. This could include challenging financial records’ accuracy, questioning expert testimony’s validity, or arguing that the deceased’s projected future income is speculative.
  •  Asserting alternate sources of support: Defence lawyers may investigate whether the children have access to other sources of financial support, such as life insurance policies, inheritance, or government benefits. They may argue, perhaps rightly so, that these alternative sources of support should be considered when determining the compensation amount, potentially reducing the defendant’s liability.
  •  Challenging the valuation of losses: Defence lawyers may dispute the calculations used to determine the financial losses suffered by the children. This could involve hiring their own experts to provide alternative projections of the deceased’s future income and the duration of the children’s dependency.

It is crucial for the surviving spouse to work with experienced Hamilton wrongful death lawyers who can anticipate and counter the defence’s strategies. By presenting a strong case supported by compelling evidence and expert testimony, the surviving spouse can improve the chances of securing fair compensation for the children’s financial losses in a dependency claim.

How do I Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer near me?

This is a common question that often comes up in Google searches. Hiring a wrongful death lawyer is an important decision, especially during a time of grief and stress following the loss of a loved one.

It’s common for individuals to feel overwhelmed, uncertain, and even intimidated by the prospect of engaging with legal professionals. Concerns about costs, the complexity of legal proceedings, and the emotional weight of revisiting painful details might make some hesitant to seek legal assistance.

However, finding a competent and compassionate lawyer can be crucial in securing justice and financial stability for the bereaved family. Here are a few tips:

Look for Specialization and Experience

Why It Matters: Wrongful death cases can be complex, involving intricate legal and medical issues. Lawyers specializing in wrongful death will have a deeper understanding and experience in handling similar cases, navigating the legal system, and dealing with insurance companies.

What to Do: Check the lawyer’s background for specific experience in wrongful death cases. Review their website, read testimonials, and look at their case results to gauge their expertise in this area.

Assess Their Communication Skills

Why It Matters: Effective communication is essential. You need a lawyer who can explain complex legal terms in understandable language and keep you informed throughout the process.

What to Do: During initial consultations, observe if the lawyer listens to you attentively, addresses your concerns, and explains the legal process clearly. Their ability to communicate effectively is a good indicator of how they will handle your case.

Check Client Reviews and Testimonials

Why It Matters: Feedback from previous clients can provide insights into the lawyer’s performance and their firm’s operation. Positive reviews can indicate reliability, while negative reviews might raise red flags.

What to Do: Look for reviews on independent websites or the firm’s site. Pay attention to comments about the lawyer’s responsiveness, professionalism, and empathy.

Have a 100% Understanding of Legal Fees.

Why It Matters: Legal fees in wrongful death cases can vary widely. Most wrongful death attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win the case.

What to Do: Ensure you understand how fees and costs will be handled. Ask about what percentage of the settlement they will take, how disbursements are handled, and if there are any potential extra costs. Transparency about fees is crucial.

Evaluate Their Empathy and Support

Why It Matters: Dealing with the loss of a loved one is emotionally draining. Having an attorney who is not only professional but also empathetic and supportive can help alleviate some of the stress.

What to Do: During your initial meeting, assess whether the lawyer shows genuine concern for your situation and a strong commitment to helping you get justice. Their demeanour should reassure you of their support throughout the legal process.

Always remember that many people feel nervous about hiring a lawyer due to the fear of the unknown, concerns about costs, or the belief that the legal process is too complex. Overcoming this hesitation starts with education and preparation.

Learn the basics of wrongful death claims to be more informed before talking to lawyers.

Also, Write down questions you have about your case, fees, or the legal process before meeting with potential lawyers. This preparation can make you feel more confident and help ensure you don’t forget to ask important questions.

Sometimes, speaking to someone who has gone through a similar experience and had a positive outcome can help alleviate anxiety.

Remember, our wrongful death lawyers will not only provide legal representation but will also stand by your side during one of the most difficult times of your life, making the daunting process more bearable.

Our Wrongful Death Lawyers can help. Call us Today.

Losing a parent can undoubtedly profoundly impact a child’s immediate emotional and psychological well-being. This can often result in feelings of insecurity, profound grief, and confusion that can disrupt the child’s developmental trajectory. Over the long term, this loss can affect the child’s relationships, trust in others, and life choices, potentially leading to challenges in forming secure attachments and coping with life’s stresses healthily.

During such times, we understand that the practicalities of legal action can seem distant and unimportant, with the immediate focus being on coping with the loss and supporting your children. But always remember, the kids must be protected. No matter what, and although contacting a lawyer may be the last thing on your mind, it is often necessary to ensure that your family’s financial future is protected and that justice is sought for the untimely loss. This step, difficult as it may be, is a critical part of addressing the practical consequences that accompany such a tragic event.

If you have lost a loved one, call us anywhere in Canada at 1-844-LALANDE or locally throughout Ontario at 905-333-8888 with any questions you may have. Alternatively, you can send us a confidential email through our website; we would be happy to get back to you.

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Article FAQ

What are the psychological effects of wrongful death on children?

Children may experience intense emotional responses such as grief, anxiety, and depression. Long-term effects can include issues with social relationships and academic performance.

How can families secure the future of children after a wrongful death?

Families can secure a child’s future by pursuing wrongful death claims for compensation, setting up trusts or funds for the child’s education and living expenses, and ensuring continuous emotional and psychological support.

What legal rights do children have in wrongful death cases?

Children have the right to compensation for loss of parental care, guidance, and financial support.

How can parents and guardians support children through the grief of losing a parent to wrongful death?

Support can be given through professional counselling, involvement in support groups, and maintaining open communication to help children express and process their grief.

What are common behavioural changes in children after experiencing a wrongful death in the family?

Common behavioural changes include withdrawal from social activities, decreased academic performance, and possible increases in risk-taking behaviours or substance use as coping mechanisms.

How do I choose the right wrongful death lawyer near me?

Look for a lawyer with specific experience in wrongful death cases, check their track record of success, and read reviews from previous clients. It’s also important to ensure they communicate clearly and are empathetic to your situation.

What should I expect during the initial consultation with a wrongful death lawyer?

During an initial consultation, the lawyer will review the details of your case, advise on the legal options available, and discuss the likelihood of a successful claim. This meeting should also cover their fee structure and any immediate steps you should take.



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