Knowledgeable Wrongful Death Attorneys Explain
Everyone goes through the pain of losing a loved one. But when you lose a family member in an accident, then your suffering becomes more painful and long-lasting. In the meantime, you will have medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of income, loss of companionship and other things to worry about. If the death was caused by the deliberate action, recklessness or negligence of someone (or some entity), then you can file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit to recover the damages.
The Meaning of Wrongful Death Damages
Damage is the term used by wrongful death attorneys for a sum of money claimed by or awarded to a plaintiff (the person who has filed a claim or a lawsuit) as compensation for the death of his or her loved one. Wrongful death damages are awarded to the family members of the deceased to compensate for the financial and emotional losses they have suffered as a result of the death of their loved one.
The damages are paid by the defendant’s insurance company, as it happens in most cases, after a mutually satisfactory settlement has been reached between the plaintiff and the defendant, or, if the lawsuit goes to trial, after the court has given its verdict in favor of the plaintiff and ordered the defendant to pay a certain amount of money as damages.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
There are basically two types of wrongful death claims: general wrongful death claims and survivor wrongful death claims.
- General wrongful death claims: This type of wrongful death claim can be sought by the beneficiaries of the deceased person. They may include the victim’s spouse, children and, in special circumstances, parents. The purpose of these claims is to provide monetary compensation to the people who were financially dependent on the deceased person.
- Survivor wrongful death claims: This type of wrongful death claim can be brought if the deceased victim does not have a spouse, children or any other dependent. In most cases, an individual appointed as the personal representative of the deceased’s estate seeks the claim on behalf of the estate. The purpose of these claims is to seek justice for the wrongful death of the decedent.
Types of Wrongful Death Damages
Depending on the circumstances of death and the evidence you can provide, you can claim the following three types of wrongful death claims:
- Economic damages: These are the losses that have exact monetary value and include expenses like medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of earnings, loss of inheritance and loss of insurance benefits. All these expenses must be related to the injury or death of the victim.
- Non-economic damages: These are the damages that do not have exact monetary value and include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of protection, care and guidance. Lawyers often use a special formula to calculate the monetary value of these damages.
- Punitive damages: These are the damages that the defendant is made to pay as punishment for causing the death. These damages are rarely awarded and usually only when the defendant is found to have caused the death by deliberate action or egregious negligence.
- Attorney fees and interests on damages: In some cases, the plaintiff is awarded reimbursement for attorney and legal fees. Some states also award the plaintiff interest accrued on the damages from the date they were incurred till the date they are collected.
How wrongful death damages are calculated
Calculating economic damages is quite straightforward. All the bills and related documents are collected and the amounts for each are added to get the total amount. But calculating non-economic damages is a different matter altogether since it can be extremely difficult to assign monetary value to abstract things like pain and suffering and loss of consortium. Lawyers often use a special formula to arrive at an estimated value. Sometimes, they may use help from economics and actuaries.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?
Under California law, only a legal heir of the deceased can seek wrongful death damages. In most cases, legal heirs include spouse, children and sometimes parents of the deceased. In case the deceased person has no surviving dependent, the individual appointed as the representative of his or estate may claim the damages on behalf of the estate. In case a person is killed intestate, i.e., without a will, his or her heirs are determined according to the laws of the state.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident, then talk to experienced wrongful death attorneys to explore your best legal options for recovery.