Wrongful Death FAQ

Who can file a wrongful death case?

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by a person who is a close relative to the deceased, including a parent, spouse or a child. Additionally, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by financial dependants, putative spouses, distant family members and parents of a deceased. The case is usually filed by a representative of the estate, on behalf of surviving family members and other affected parties.

Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit if the deceased never held a job?

Yes, if the deceased never held a job, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed. The deceased may have contributed in some other way to the family. For instance, a stay at home wife or husband contributes by providing guidance and nurturing the family. Such contributions may be quantifiable and are known as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death case.

What are the categories of damages in wrongful death lawsuits?

Damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit vary from state to state. Generally, there are three categories of damages:

  1. Economic damages: These damages replace the financial contributions the deceased would have made if not for the untimely death. They include:
    • Medical and funeral experiences following death
    • Loss of the deceased expected earnings
    • Loss of benefits (pension plans, medical coverage, etc.)
    • Loss of inheritance due to untimely death
    • The total value of goods and services the deceased would have provided to the survivors
  2. Non- economic damages: These are less tangible damages. Often, non-economic damages have a higher value than economic damages. They include damages for:
    • The survivors’ mental anguish or pain and suffering
    • Loss of care, guidance, protection and nurturing
    • Loss of love and companionship
    • Loss of consortium
  3. Punitive damages: This is a compensation awarded to punish the defendant for wrongful acts. In most states, these damages are not recoverable in wrongful death lawsuits or against certain defendants, including government agencies. Punitive damages for a wrongful death can be recovered from nursing homes for an elder’s death. The amount of compensation is equal to three times of the amount of actual damages.