Legal Guide

What Damages Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Action?

The loss of a loved one leads to emotional turmoil for their family members and when the loss is due to someone else’s negligence, it may be even more overwhelming and emotional. Wrongful death means that someone died due to the intentional actions or negligence of another person. Although the rules vary from state to state, there are laws that provide the means to help ease the financial burden when someone else is responsible for causing the death of your loved one. These laws also identify who can legally file a wrongful death lawsuit. Here are the damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death claim and who can file a claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The surviving family members of the deceased are generally qualified to file a wrongful death suit against the negligent party. The order of those who can file a claim in a wrongful death lawsuit typically is as follows:

  • The spouse of the deceased
  • The children of the deceased
  • Parents of the deceased (if the deceased was unmarried or the children are minors)
  • Siblings or other adoptive or blood relatives that were dependent on the deceased for support
  • The person that paid for the medical services, funeral, and burial expenses for the deceased
  • The personal representative or executor of the deceased’s estate

Damages That Can Be Recovered

There are both economic and non-economic costs involved in a wrongful death case. The most obvious costs are things like hospital bills, treatment costs, and funeral expenses; however, there are also several other costs associated with wrongful death. For instance, a wrongful death often involves someone that was still capable of working and earning an income in order to provide for their family as well as capable of providing care. The most common economic damages in a wrongful death claim generally include

  • Medical expenses
  • Damages relating to property damage
  • Lost wages and potential, future lost earnings
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Survival claim, also known as pain and suffering
  • Loss of inheritance
  • Lost value of household services

Along with the economic damages, surviving family members may also file a claim for non-economic damages, which may include loss of emotional support and guidance, which is known as a loss of consortium. When a wrongful death occurs, the surviving family members may suffer from intangible losses, which the loss of love and companionship, loss of sexual relations, pain and suffering, reputation damage, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and mental anguish.

What Damages Can Be Awarded

When determining the types of “specialized” damages that will be awarded in a wrongful death claim, there are several different factors that the courts will review about the deceased and their relationship with the surviving family members. In the majority of situations, damages in a wrongful death claim can be awarded to:

  • The deceased’s spouse. In the majority of situations, the surviving spouse has a claim of lost companionship resulting from the death of the deceased as well as the emotional trauma that arises for the surviving spouse from the trauma of the death.
  • Minor children of the deceased may be awarded damages for the relationship benefits that were lost, which may include support and comfort.
  • Parents of a minor child that died as a result of someone else’s negligence may also recover damages for the lost relationship with their child and their emotional trauma.

Punitive Damages

Depending on the circumstances of the death of the deceased, surviving family members may also be awarded punitive damages. Punitive damages may be awarded if the negligent person (entity) participated in egregious or reckless conduct that resulted in the death of the deceased. Punitive damages are basically designed to be punishment for the defendant and to help deter similar behavior/actions in the future.

Wrongful death lawsuits are filed in order to get the right compensation for the loss of life. It is important to note that many wrongful death lawsuits may take several years to win but to ensure the best outcome for you and your family, it is essential that you proceed with experienced wrongful death attorneys. Your attorney will consult with you and help you determine if you have a case and the steps you’ll need to take in order to file the lawsuit and your attorney will provide you with the legal services necessary to help you through the process and get the results you want.


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