Wrongful Death Suits

If one person’s negligence results in the death of another, the family members of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit. The purpose of filing such a suit is for the survivors of the deceased to seek damages from the defendant. The majority of wrongful death suits involve car accidents, however workplace accidents product liability and medical malpractice suits are also common. The defendant in a wrongful death suit may be an individual or a company.

Filing a Wrongful Death Suit

The specifics of wrongful death suits vary from state to state. All states have requirements as to who may file a suit on behalf of the deceased. In general, immediate family members, financial dependents and domestic partnerships may seek damages. Some states permit distant family members and anyone who will suffer financially as a result of the deceased’s passing to file suit. An individual acting on behalf of the survivors will file the suit. Typically, this is the executor of the estate.

Who Is at Fault?

Depending on the specifics of the case, there are a wide variety of potential defendants in a wrongful death claim. In a medical malpractice suit, a doctor would be the defendant. In a wrongful death case involving a faulty automobile part, the company that manufactured the automobile could be sued. There is some immunity for government employees and agencies, which varies from state to state.

Wrongful Death Damages

Damages in a wrongful death case can be awarded in three ways: as economic, non-economic or punitive damages.  Economic damages are intended to compensate the family for the financial impact of losing the deceased. Medical bills, funeral expenses and the loss of the deceased earnings may all be factored in to economic damages. Non-economic damages can include pain and suffering, loss of companionship and loss of consortium. Punitive damages are indented as punishment for illegal conduct on the part of the defendant. Many states do not allow punitive damages to be factored in to wrongful death suits.

The process of calculating damages can be so complicated that expert witnesses are often used to assist both parties in pleading the case. Actuaries and economists may weigh in with their professional opinions as to tangibles—such as income and benefits—in addition to assisting in placing a monetary value on the services the deceased provided to the family as a caregiver or parent within the home.