How Much Do You Know About Wrongful Death Claims?
How Much Do You Know About Wrongful Death Claims? A death in the family may be one of the toughest challenges someone can face, but it is even more painful when it is sudden and caused by someone else’s wrongful act.
Wrongful death is defined as a person’s demise resulting from someone else’s reckless action or negligent behavior, whether intentional or otherwise. For example, if Person A harms Person B in a physical altercation that later results in Person B’s death, the injury is considered intentional and Person A may be sued for wrongful death. Meanwhile, a death caused by an auto accident may be considered unintentional, and the offending party may be held liable for negligence.
Wrongful death statutes were created to provide financial support to loved ones who have been left behind, but may vary from one state to another. Here are some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Slip, trip, and fall accidents
- Construction accidents
- Burn injuries from fire, electrical accidents, and accidents caused by chemical use
- Acts of violence resulting from negligent security
- Negligent supervision of children
- Work-related accidents
- Medical malpractice
Who are eligible to sue for wrongful death claims?
Most of the time, a surviving spouse, child, or next of kin are eligible to sue for wrongful death. There are some variations of the statutes per state, however, sometimes allowing a surviving spouse to sue even in the event of separation. (Exceptions are made if the surviving spouse was found guilty of desertion or failure to provide support to the family.)
In some states only a minor child is eligible to sue for the death of a parent, while in others, parents are not allowed to sue for the death of an adult child who is married and/or financially independent.
What are the damages in wrongful death claims and how are they determined?
The amount of damages to be awarded to the decedent’s beneficiaries depends on the law of each state. Compensatory damages are the most common. These are given to make up for the amount of money the immediate family lost in conjunction with the wrongful death, such as hospital/medical bills, funeral expenses and the amount of financial support they could have received if the decedent had lived.
Although compensatory damages usually seem economic in nature, non-economic damages are also taken into consideration as they often have more value than its counterpart.
In a nutshell, the list of damages that may be included in a claim are:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Loss of income
- Loss of benefits, such as pension plans or medical coverage
- Loss of inheritance caused by the untimely death
- Loss of companionship/security
- Mental and emotional duress
- Punitive damages
Punitive damages are awarded to plaintiffs in wrongful death cases if the defendant’s actions were predominantly reckless or severe. This is meant to punish the defendant for his actions and awarded at the discretion of the jury.
Some states allow plaintiffs to recover interest on the damages from the time they were incurred up until the time they are fully collected. Meanwhile, there are some cases where plaintiffs get reimbursed for attorney’s fees and costs incurred in the duration of the lawsuit.
Calculating damages in wrongful death cases can get extremely complicated because of the many variables that are taken into consideration. In computing compensation, for example, the decedent’s salary (which he could have continued receiving had he not passed) may be multiplied by the number of years he would most likely have lived. This may be adjusted to accommodate various factors, such as inflation.
However, damages might not always be computable based on earnings, especially if the decedent is unemployed. It is for these cases that courts have set minimum annual dollar amounts for the worth of an individual’s housekeeping and child care services.
A huge number of wrongful deaths per year involve auto accidents, and this could be lessened if only we become more mindful of the way we navigate the streets. Should you find yourself in need of expert legal advice on wrongful death cases, please contact Tenge Law Firm, LLC.