When someone dies due to the fault of another person or entity, compensation for the family of the deceased can come through a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death claims can involve a variety of matters, including fatal car accidents, medical malpractice, a dangerous property condition, or dangerous or defective products, and the damages available vary according to state law.
Economic damages are the financial contributions that the victim would have made to the survivors if he had lived, and include the following:
- Medical and end-of-life expenses connected to the death
- Loss of the deceased person’s earnings over the course of his expected lifetime
- Loss of the ability to participate in the victim’s benefits, such as pension plans and health insurance
- Loss of an inheritance
- The estimated value of goods and services the deceased would have provided to the survivors
Although more difficult to quantify, non-economic damages can be more valuable than economic damages, and may include:
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish caused by the victim’s wrongful death
- Loss of care, protection, guidance, advice, training, and nurturing
- A spouse or partner’s loss of love, society, companionship, and consortium
Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for conduct considered especially bad or offensive; however, punitive damages are not available in wrongful death lawsuits in all states. Some jurisdictions permit them if the defendant’s conduct was willful and wanton, proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Wrongful death lawsuits often involve extremely complex areas of law and damage calculations include not only income and benefits but also the monetary value of services and care provided by the deceased person. Cases involving wrongful death frequently result in large damage awards and the parties often seek out the opinion of expert witness such as economists and actuaries to help determine what is realistic, proper, and above all, fair.
Fick & May Law Firm