What is a Wrongful Death Accident?

A wrongful death accident happens when a person is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company, or entity. Legal action for wrongful death belongs to the deceased’s immediate family members, who are often called “distributes.”

The most common distributees are surviving spouses and children, and sometimes parents. A lawsuit for wrongful death may only be brought by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Every state has a civil wrongful death statute, or a set of laws that govern the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. Actions for personal injury, pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent’s death are also brought by the personal representative. The damage awarded from these actions belong to the estate and may pass to different parties as directed by the deceased’s will.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Case

A wrongful death case consists of the following elements:

  • A death occurred and was caused by another’s negligence or with intent to cause harm,
  • The deceased left behind family members who are suffering the loss of their loved one and sustained monetary injury as a result of the death, and
  • A personal representative has been appointed for the deceased’s estate.

A wrongful death claim may arise out of a number of circumstances, such as:

  • Medical malpractice that results in a person’s death,
  • Automobile or airplane accident,
  • Occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances,
  • Criminal behavior, or
  • Death during a supervised activity.

 Seeking Damages

In wrongful death cases, damages are awarded to the deceased’s family for pecuniary, or financial, injury, which include the loss of support, services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. Most laws provide that the damages awarded for a wrongful death shall be fair and just compensation for the pecuniary injuries that resulted from the decedent’s death. If the distributees already paid or are responsible for paying the decedent’s funeral or medical care, they may also recover those expenses. Finally, a damage award will include interest from the date of the deceased’s death.

Several factors are considered in determining pecuniary loss, including the age, character and condition of the deceased, his or her earning capacity, life expectancy, health and intelligence as well as the circumstances of the distributees. This may seem straightforward, but it often becomes a complicated inquiry keeping in mind that the measure of damages is actual pecuniary loss. The main consideration in awarding damages is usually the circumstances at the time of the deceased person’s death. For example, when an adult wage earner with dependents dies, the major parts of the recovery are loss of income and loss of parental guidance. A jury may consider the deceased’s earnings at the time of death, the last known earnings if unemployed, and potential future earnings.

In a wrongful death cases, a jury determines the amount that the distributees will be awarded after hearing the evidence. The jury’s determination is not the final word. The size of the award may be adjusted upward or downward by the court for a variety of reasons. For example, if the deceased routinely squandered his income, this might reduce the family’s recovery. Similarly, the courts will reduce a jury’s award if the deceased had poor earnings, even though he was young, had great potential, and supported several children. At the same time, a jury may award lost earnings despite the deceased having been unemployed, if he had worked in the past and if the plaintiff presented evidence of the deceased’s average earnings while employed. If the plaintiff fails to present such evidence of the deceased’s average earnings, the court may set aside the jury’s damage award and order a new trial.

In addition to pecuniary damages, punitive damages are awarded in cases of serious or malicious wrongdoing to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from behaving similarly. In most states, a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death action. In some states, there are specific statutes that permit the recovery of punitive damages. In states that do not explicitly allow or disallow punitive damages in wrongful death actions, courts have made punitive damages permissible.

We Can Help

If you have lost a loved one due to wrongful death, The Personal Injury Help Center can help you find the help and resources you need. Our network of wrongful death and personal injury lawyers, experts and professionals strive for justice and fairness in the form of compensation for victims of wrongful death and their families.

We are dedicated to seeking justice and fair financial compensation for those who are facing a future that has been forever altered by the negligent act of another. When you are looking to file an wrongful death or injury claim, you need to know that you have the best working on your side.

Over the years, our team has been successful in recovering rightly-owed compensation in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. This is a testimony to our ability to help our clients in some of the most complex injury and wrongful death litigation.

When filing a wrongful death claim, you only have one opportunity to secure a settlement; once you accept an offer, you cannot turn around to get more money if you realize that it will not cover the extent of the damages. To help you better understand what the settlement should cover, the team at The Personal Injury Help Center will help you:

Make sure your injury claim covers all of your medical expenses. This includes hospital bills, rehabilitation, future medical costs, costs of medication, future doctor visits, caretaker costs, and reconstructive surgery.

Make sure the settlement covers monetary damages. This includes property damage or car damage, lost earnings and wages, and future loss of earnings.

Make sure you are compensated for other miscellaneous damages. These include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and out of pocket expenses.

To learn more about Wrongful Death claims and find out how you can obtain compensation for the injuries that you have sustained in any type of accident, complete the Free Case Evaluation form.