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Wrongful Death

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.

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.

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.

What are the Types of Damages Allowed in a Wrongful Death Case?

The damages that are allowed in a wrongful death case differ from state to state, so, if you believe that you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family member, you should contact one of our experienced attorneys immediately. In addition to the standard damages, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case can, of course, collect as damages the funeral and burial expenses for the deceased. Any family members whom the deceased supported financially are entitled to damages for loss of support for the period of time into the future that the deceased would have supported them. In order to be awarded damages for loss of support, the family member must prove that the deceased supported him/her financially, and must prove the amount of the support. Minor children will receive loss of support through age 18 and possibly for college if the child can prove that the deceased would have contributed to the child’s college education. A widow will receive loss of support until the deceased’s presumed retirement age (usually 65). A widower can receive loss of support if he can show that his deceased wife supported him. Parents or other relatives can also receive damages for loss of support if they can prove that the deceased supported them.