Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when it is sudden or unexpected. Losing someone because of the carelessness or fault of another person can be devastating. Wanting to blame someone else is completely normal after losing a loved one, and in some situations, your blame is enitrely warranted. When your loved one is killed because of the fault of another person, you might be able to seek legal recourse.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone passes due to the fault of another person, their loved ones may be able to bring a wrongful death claim on their behalf. Essentially, if the person who was killed could have sued for a personal injury if they had survived, then their loved one likely has a claim for wrongful death.
You can assert a wrongful death claim against virtually anyone, including businesses and manufacturers. Even governmental entities can be legally responsible for the passing of an individual in some situations.
Most wrongful death claims involve the following circumstances.
- Auto accidents
- Defective products
- Defective medical devices
- Birth injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Drug injuries
Who Can Assert a Wrongful Death Claim?
Only certain individuals can bring a wrongful death claim. In most situations, if you are not considered the immediate family of the person who passed, then you likely cannot sue the wrongdoer.
Most wrongful death claims are rightfully brought by the surviving spouse. Surviving children often have the right to bring a wrongful death claim as well. However, usually, the spouse will bring the case on behalf of his or her children. In some cases, other individuals who may have been dependent on the decedent may also be able to assert a wrongful death claim, including parents and step-children.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Wrongful death lawsuits involve unique compensation or “damages.” The most common damages asserted in a wrongful death claim involve monies spent on caring for and burying your loved one, such as medical bills and funeral expenses. Another common damage involves the monetary contribution that your loved one would have provided to his or her family. These might include:
- Lost wages
- Lost benefits such as pension or retirement plans
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of the value of the services that your loved one would have provided to his or her family
These damages may require an expert to predict how long your loved one would have lived and how much he or she would have earned in their lifetime. These calculations can be difficult, so using an experienced wrongful death attorney is particularly important to ensure that you get these calculations right.
Other damages are based on emotional loss. There is no replacement for your loved one, but the law does allow compensation for your loss. While money is never a good replacement for the loss of your spouse, child, or loved one, it is the only remedy that the law can offer. Damages that are more focused on emotional losses may include:
- Damages for mental anguish
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium (for the spouse)
- Loss of the care, advice, training, and nurturing that your loved one would have provided children or other dependents
In rare situations, there may be one more form of damage available. These damages are referred to as “punitive” damages because they are designed to punish the wrongdoer. They are more focused on the action of the person at fault, instead of looking at your loss. These damages are only available in particularly egregious situations. When you see very large jury verdicts for wrongful death, they often involve punitive damages.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
You must assert your wrongful death claim within a certain amount of time after your loved one’s death. In Tennessee and Kentucky, that timeline is just one year. In Indiana, you have two years. Although a year may seem like a long time at first, you may not be emotionally ready to pursue a wrongful death claim until the clock has almost winded down on your claim.
Asserting a wrongful death claim can be difficult because the case often dives into your personal life in a unique way. The other side will question whether you had a good relationship with your spouse, for example. They will also question whether your loved one would have made any significant amount of money during their lifetime. These can all be very sensitive subjects when you have just lost someone that you care about deeply.
The attorneys at Hughes & Coleman understand what you are going through. Although asserting a wrongful death claim may be difficult, you often need to press through to get you and your family the compensation that you deserve for your loss. In some cases, if you were counting on the income of a loved one, the loss can hit you financially as well as emotionally. If you would like compassionate yet aggressive representation after the loss of a loved one, call 800-800-4600 to discuss your legal options.