A wrongful death results from the negligence or negligent acts of another person, party, or entity. That faulting party could be a negligent driver a bartender who served an already drunk driver, and much more. The bereaved can bring a claim for the wrongful death of their loved one–and the main purpose of such claims is to recover damages for funeral expenses, lost companionship, lost breadwinner, among others.
Wrongful death statutes can vary by state, but they define who can sue for a wrongful death, who’s entitled to recover damages, the limits applicable to awards, and much more. Wrongful death laws were originally meant to assist widows and orphans financially. If your loved one is a victim of wrongful death, you should seek justice. Wrongful deaths are typically complex but lawyers in Anchorage can help.
Prerequisites in Wrongful Death Claims
The following prerequisites must be present in wrongful death actions:
- The death of a person;
- Negligence, or intent to cause harm;
- Surviving dependents suffering financially due to the death of a breadwinner
- Representative of the deceased’s estate.
Recoverable Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
- Pecuniary Damages
The primary measure of damages in wrongful deaths lawsuits is pecuniary injury or loss–where pecuniary injury refers to the loss of support & services, lost inheritance, and medical & funeral expenses. Pecuniary damages should be just and fair; should cover the above-mentioned losses sufficiently and should attract interest since the deceased’s death.
Calculating Pecuniary Loss
Certain factors come into play when calculating pecuniary loss, including:
- Age of the deceased;
- The life expectancy of the deceased;
- Health condition of the decedent;
- Status of the dependents;
- Earning of the decedent;
- The intelligence of the deceased.
The subject matter when awarding damages is the deceased’s status at the time of death. For instance, if a person with dependents dies, the focus will be on the loss of a breadwinner and lost parental guidance, where the jury considers the earnings of the deceased earnings at the time of death, or their last known earnings if they’re currently unemployed, and prospective future earnings.
- Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are awarded to victims of serious civil wrongs to punish the perpetrator and discourage similar actions or wrongdoings in society. Punitive damages are not awarded in most jurisdictions but are awarded in a few states.
- Survival Actions
The bereaved can recover damages for personal injury to the deceased which are called survival actions. The name was influenced by the fact that an active personal injury action survives the plaintiff–who’s deceased in this case. The personal representative of the deceased should file a survival action in conjunction with the wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased and their estate. Damages in survival actions include pain and suffering and the following elements must be established to sustain a survival action:
- Degree of consciousness;
- The extent of pain;
- Apprehension suffered by the deceased regarding death.
Who can be awarded Wrongful death damages?
A wrongful death takes a toll on surviving family members, and it could be financial hardships if the deceased were the breadwinner. When the death results from the negligence of another party, the surviving loved ones can recover damages for wrongful death.
Wrongful death statutes vary by state, including the rules on who can file a claim, who can be awarded damages, and much more. However, the objective of wrongful death statutes in all states is to alleviate financial and emotional strain on the bereaved. So, who can recover damages for wrongful death? The following groups of people can recover damages for wrongful deaths:
Surviving spouses can sue for lost companionship or lost support resulting from the wrongful death of their partner. They can also be compensated for emotional trauma and mental anguish caused by such deaths.
Loss of comfort, parental guidance, breadwinner, and support are the damages that minor children can recover for the wrongful death of a parent.
Parents of a minor who’s a victim of wrongful death can recover damages for emotional anguish and lost relationship with the child.
Available Defenses against Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Defendants have a right to defend themselves in wrongful death claims and the following are the defenses you can cite in such lawsuits:
There must be a link between death and the actions of a defendant but if the plaintiff can’t prove the link, the defendant will automatically be acquitted.
This is applicable where the alleged negligence of the defendant was influenced by the imminent risk of physical harm, danger, or death.
Some states award damages proportionately to the degree of contribution. If the deceased contributed 40% towards an accident, the bereaved can only recover 60% of their claim.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for wrongful death cases is typically 2 years. Cases that are not filed within this timeframe are considered time-barred.
If you are being sued for wrongful death, the wisest decision is to consult a lawyer death to assess the claim, develop a strong case, and help you get justice.