What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a type of civil lawsuit. If a person is negligent and kills someone, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against the negligent party, on behalf of certain relatives of the deceased person.
A wrongful death claim is typically brought by the surviving family members or dependents of the deceased person against individuals that knowingly or negligently caused the death of their loved one. These cases could be brought against someone even if they were not criminally charged with the death of a person.
Leading Causes for Wrongful Death Claims
Several reasons can lead up to the need for a wrongful death claim. Some of the most common are listed below:
Car accidents – drivers that operate a vehicle while impaired, distracted, or aggressively are some of the most common reasons for wrongful death suits. The person with fatal injuries may have been in another car or a pedestrian or bicyclist.
Medical malpractice – Doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, and hospitals are held to a “duty of care” for their patients. If it can be proven that this duty of care was not met either through negligence or choice, a wrongful death claim may arise.
Criminal acts – as mentioned above, whether a person is charged with murder or found innocent, a wrongful death claim against that person may still be a viable option for surviving family members. An individual may be found not guilty of murder but still lose a wrongful death suit if the evidence is clear. This is what happened in the O. J. Simpson case.
Defective products – faulty manufacturing, defective design, deceptive product instructions, or failure to warn of safety issues with a product may result in a wrongful death claim.
Work Environment – if an individual dies during an accident in the workplace that was the fault of someone other than the employer, a wrongful death suit may ensue. For example, if the employee of a construction business was killed as a result of negligence of a different employee on a jobsite, the negligent person may be liable in a wrongful death case.
What Types of Damages are Available in Wrongful Death Suits?
Damages may be awarded in successful wrongful death cases that cover the costs of losses endured by the plaintiff. This may include medical and burial expenses, lost income, loss of services, and loss of love and affection.
If the deceased is a child, this means that they are either under the age of 20 and without dependents, are under the age of 23 without dependents but enrolled in college, career training, or other applicable endeavors, or is a fetus who has reached a viability age. If the deceased falls in this category, losses that can typically be recovered are medical costs, funeral expenses, reasonable therapy costs, and more.
If the deceased is an adult without independents, the standard damages that relatives can recover would be for funeral or burial expenses, medical costs, and loss of the person’s companionship, with a general cap of $300,000.
Married adults or adults with dependents can typically recover damages for medical and funeral costs, loss of companionship and guidance or training from the parent, loss of future earnings that the deceased’s family will no longer have, loss of the value of services, and loss of love and companionship.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Indiana?
As with the categories stipulated above, those who can file a wrongful death claim or suit will depend on the person who passed and what family relation they were with the deceased.
If the deceased was a child, the lawsuit must be filed by one or both of the parents. If the parents are divorced, the parent with legal custody of the child can file the claim. If both parents have been denied their parental rights, or the child has a legal guardian for other reasons, the legal guardian can typically file a wrongful death claim.
If the decedent was an adult, the person who can file a wrongful death claim is an administrator appointed by the court to pursue the wrongful death claim
Why a Personal Representative Rather Than a Family Member?
An administrator is appointed to pursue the wrongful death claim. This person can be an immediate or extended family member or someone otherwise appointed by the courts as the administrator. This is a difficult legal proceeding from the decedent’s probate estate.
If the deceased has appointed a personal representative in a will or estate plan, this person may be appointed by the court to pursue the wrongful death claim.
The personal representative will have two years to file a wrongful death claim to remain within the statute of limitations in Indiana.
Why Work with an Attorney?
Generally speaking, clients with an experienced attorney as their advocate can expect to obtain several times what they can recover independently. Let us advocate for you and your family during this trying time and allow you to focus on what matters. We are a dedicated and determined team who will work tirelessly for you and your family.
Call our office today at (812) 247-8416 to get started.
This is not finished. Factual inaccuracies have been corrected in the first pass through**