Wrongful death claims can involve a variety of circumstances, including fatal car accidents, medical malpractice, and dangerous or defective products. A representative may file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the survivors who suffered damages due to the death. All states allow immediate family members to recover damages under a wrongful death lawsuit, including:
- Birth and adopted children
- Parents of unmarried children
In some states, other survivors are allowed to seek recovery, depending upon individual state law. These survivors may include:
- Life or domestic partners
- Financial dependents, even if they are not related by blood or marriage to the victim
- Putative spouses
- Parents of a deceased fetus
The damages available in wrongful death lawsuits vary according to state law. Economic damages are the financial contributions that the victim would have made to the survivors if he had survived, and typically include the following:
- Medical and end-of-life expenses related to the death.
- Loss of the deceased person’s earnings over his expected lifetime.
- Loss of the ability to participate in the victim’s plans.
- Loss of the ability to inherit.
- The estimated value of goods and services the deceased would have provided to the survivors.
Although more difficult to quantify, non-economic damages are often considered more valuable than economic damages, and include:
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish
- Loss of care, protection, guidance, advice, training, and nurturing
- Loss of love, society, companionship, and consortium
Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer for conduct considered especially bad or offensive, but they may or may not be available, depending upon state law.
Wrongful Death Damage Calculations Often Complex
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. Consequently, cases involving wrongful death frequently result in large damage awards for surviving family members.