Wrongful Death Lawsuit Damages
A wrongful death is broadly defined as a death that is caused (at least, in significant part) by another party’s intentional, reckless, or negligent actions or inactions. Wrongful death can occur in a variety of situations, such as medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, and certain workplace accidents. It can also apply to situations wherein a victim is intentionally killed, although a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case. Criminal charges might be filed separately.
Think of a wrongful death claim as similar to a personal injury claim, only the plaintiff is deceased and can no longer file the claim on their own behalf. A member of the deceased’s immediate family—often a spouse, parent, or child—or a representative of the victim’s estate will typically file a wrongful death claim seeking damages.
The damages that may be recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit generally fall into four broad categories. However, as an experienced wrongful death lawyer can confirm, the definitions of these categories and limitations on damages vary according to each state’s unique laws and regulations.
Economic damages reflect the financial impact of the person’s death—both the cost of the death itself, and the potential contributions the deceased party would have made if they had not died. Economic damages may include medical expenses, funeral expenses, loss of inheritance, loss of benefits, and even loss of potential earnings, goods, and services the victim may have provided.
Non-economic damages cannot be tallied on a receipt, but are still valued in a wrongful death claim. These may include damages for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, the loss of love and companionship felt by those left behind, or the loss of care, guidance, or nurturing from the deceased party.
In some states, plaintiffs can seek punitive damages if the defendant’s behavior was particularly egregious. A wrongful death attorney will provide guidance on whether punitive damages are an option in the state where the claim is being filed.
Attorney Fees and Interest
Some states also allow survivors to claim reimbursement for legal costs and attorney fees, or even to collect interest on damages from the time the damages occurred to the time that they are awarded.
The process of calculating damages in a wrongful death claim can be complex. In addition to carefully considering all of the circumstances of the death, a wrongful death lawyer may need to collect expert testimony from professionals like accountants, actuaries, and economists to provide perspective on these calculations. You’ll be able to learn more about how damages calculations may factor into your situation uniquely if and when you meet with a wrongful death attorney about your case.