What Is Wrongful Death?

What Is Wrongful Death

Wrongful death happens when a person or entity’s negligence causes a death. The surviving family members or a personal representative from the deceased’s estate may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault parties. Litigation for wrongful death can arise from car accidents, pedestrian accidents, truck crashes, slips and falls, and more.

Although many wrongful death lawsuits coincide with criminal trials, wrongful death actions are civil lawsuits and a type of injury claim.

Wrongful death cases use similar evidence to criminal cases but have a lower standard of proof. This type of lawsuit seeks compensation for losses such as funeral expenses, lost income, and loss of companionship.

Our Wrongful death lawyers in Indianapolis understand that losing someone close to you is painful and traumatic. You need to consider legal action during this difficult time for several reasons, even though it might seem daunting. Let us lift some of this burden by helping you seek the justice and compensation you deserve.

Who Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The wrongful death statute in the state where the fatal incident occurred determines the specific details as to who can file a claim. Common examples of people who can make this claim include parents, children, surviving spouses, other immediate family members, or a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.

Eligible survivors are called real parties in interest and generally must prove the following to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit:

  • A death occurred due to someone else’s negligence or intentionally wrongful actions.
  • The surviving family members suffered harm or monetary injuries because of the death
  • In appropriate circumstances, appointing a personal representative of the decedent’s estate.

In some states, people like financial dependents, putative spouses, siblings, and grandparents can bring a claim against the negligent party. These parties may recover damages for lost income, medical bills, funeral expenses, and emotional pain and suffering.

Who Can Face a Wrongful Death Claim?

Almost anyone can face a lawsuit in a wrongful death case.

The following are some examples of negligent individuals liable for a wrongful death:

  • A driver who caused a collision
  • A company that designed or manufactured a defective product
  • An individual or company who provided alcohol to an impaired driver who caused a fatal crash
  • A company who failed to warn the public about risks associated with a product
  • ​​Roadway designers or builders who constructed faulty roadways
  • Government agencies that fail to warn the public about dangerous road hazards
  • A professional who has committed medical malpractice
  • An employer of an individual who caused a death to happen while performing work duties

If you’re planning to sue for wrongful death, consult an experienced attorney who can provide a detailed understanding of all the potential defendants you can file a claim against.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

To win a wrongful death case, your case must contain these elements of negligence:

  • The defendant owed the deceased a duty to use reasonable care
  • The defendant’s actions or inaction caused the breach
  • The death was a direct result of the breach of duty
  • Measurable damages resulted from the death

Evidence and witness testimony are required to prove all these elements and convince a judge or jury that a wrongful death occurred. In a wrongful death case, evidence might include an expert economist’s opinion on the decedent’s life expectancy and economic losses.

You must file your case within the time constraints outlined in the statute of limitations for the state where the incident occurred. For best results, you should work with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney.

Wrongful Death vs. Personal Injury Lawsuits: What’s the Difference?

Although wrongful death claims are similar to injury lawsuits in many ways, families can only pursue wrongful death lawsuits when an accident is fatal.

Accident victims in personal injury claims can file a lawsuit or negotiate a settlement to gain compensation from the at-fault party who harmed them. Like wrongful death lawsuits, personal injury victims must prove the defendant’s actions were negligent or intentional and caused them harm to gain compensation.

The family or personal representative of the deceased may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible for the death. ​​Similar to a personal injury case, the family or estate representative of the deceased can file a lawsuit or negotiate a settlement to recover compensation for funeral bills, burial costs, medical bills, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering the deceased experienced before death.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Claimants can seek compensatory damages for their loved one’s death. The purpose of these damages is to compensate surviving family members for economic and non-economic damages.

Additionally, you may receive punitive damages for the defendant’s intentional or especially egregious actions.

Damages in wrongful death cases can broken down into two categories:

Economic Damages

These damages compensate surviving family members or a personal representative of the deceased for any financial losses incurred due to the wrongful death.

Examples of economic damages include:

  • Loss of income or earning capacity
  • Loss of support
  • Costs associated with medical care
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of inheritance

Non-economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate surviving family or a personal representative of the deceased for the emotional harm they’ve endured after losing a loved one. These often intangible damages are difficult to calculate.

Non-economic damages include:

  • Emotional suffering
  • Loss of companionship
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of guidance
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of consortium

Establishing a monetary amount for non-economic damages requires the skill of a wrongful death attorney who can make a solid case for the suffering experienced by surviving family members.

Speak With a Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

Wrongful Death Attorney in Indianapolis, Nathan Maudlin
Nathan Maudlin, Wrongful Death Lawyer in Indianapolis

Filing a wrongful death claim can give surviving family members the closure they need to begin the healing process. Additionally, holding the parties accountable for their negligence ensures you get justice for your loved one’s death and ensures their reckless behavior won’t cause another death in the future.

If you’re considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit, consult an attorney who can explain your legal rights and guide you through the process.

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