The death of a loved one is a difficult thing to process for anyone. If that death was caused by someone else's negligence or bad behavior, the pain and grief could be even worse. However, you have legal options that may compensate you for your losses and damages. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person you believe is responsible for your loved one's death.
A wrongful death could occur under several different circumstances. It could happen in an unintentional accident or because of someone's willful and malicious conduct. After filing your lawsuit, we must prove that the defendant is at fault for the death. Proving fault will vary from case to case and depend heavily on how your loved one died. Damages can include financial losses like medical bills for your loved one and non-tangible losses, like loss of companionship.
If you lost a loved one under circumstances you believe amount to wrongful death, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Our Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys can help you hold the wrongdoers responsible for your loved one's death. Call the offices of Wruck Paupore at (219) 322-1166 for a free legal consultation.
While all deaths can be painful experiences for surviving family members, only certain deaths may be considered wrongful. According to Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1, wrongful death is a death caused by another person's wrongful act or omission. Wrongful acts may be negligent or intentional. An omission is where a person fails to act in a way they otherwise should have. Additionally, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed if the decedent, had they survived, would have been able to sue for damages related to the incident.
Wrongful death can happen in a variety of circumstances. Many cases involve accidents. However, other unintentional acts may also cause wrongful death. For example, if a medical procedure goes wrong and your loved one dies, you might have a wrongful death claim if the doctor acted negligently.
Wrongful death also happens when someone fails to do something they should have. For example, if a child dies from playing with a gun that their parent left loaded within the child's reach, that adult might be liable for the child's wrongful death. The adult should have known better and locked the gun up safely rather than leaving it accessible to their child.
A wrongful death may also be related to criminal acts of violence that caused your loved one's death. In that case, the defendant might also face criminal charges that could affect your civil case. Our Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys can help you get your case started.
When a person dies, much of the aftermath is typically handled by their next of kin. Funeral arrangements and disposing of personal property are a burden that usually falls to family. In a wrongful death case, it would seem to make sense that family members are the ones who file the lawsuit. Most frequently this is the case, although not always true.
A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by a personal representative of the deceased's person's estate. While this is most commonly a family member such as a spouse or adult child, it does not have to be. A personal representative could easily be an attorney who handled the end-of-life affairs of the deceased. A person could even name an estate representative in their last will. Thus there are many possible people who could be the personal representative to the deceased's estate.
If you lost a loved one in an unfortunate wrongful death incident and you want to file a lawsuit, check with the personal representative of your loved one's estate. If you are unsure who the personal representative is, you can speak with our Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys for guidance. Often if there is no formal estate in probate, we can open one and seek to have our client appointed as personal representative for purposes of pursuing a recovery.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be complicated because so many different types of damages can be involved. Some damages are for things that could have been claimed by the deceased had they survived, which is referred to as a “survivor” action. Other damages relate to the losses the surviving family members experience. Damages are unique to each case and may change depending on how the decedent died and the consequences experienced by family members.
Generally, the purpose of the Wrongful Death Act is to compensate certain survivors for their own losses resulting from their loved one’s death, rather than the loss directly suffered by the loved one who has passed. Under Indiana Code § 34-23-1-2, damages for a wrongful death lawsuit can include financial losses to the survivors, as well as those intangible losses such as the loss of love, affection, and companionship that a surviving husband or wife might endure.
Medical expenses incurred by the decedent before they passed away are very common in wrongful death cases. Death does not always happen immediately. If your loved one was in an accident, they might be in the hospital for some rind before ultimately succumbing to their injuries. Because the statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit begins at the time of death, not the time of the accident, there could be extensive medical treatments and expenses before death finally occurred. For example, suppose a person was in a bad car accident and left comatose for six months before ultimately passing away. Those six months of medical care and treatment can be claimed as part of the damages in a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit.
A wrongful death case may also include damages for funeral and burial costs. Funerals can be very expensive affairs. We often do not consider the cost of a funeral, but they usually are not cheap. There are typically charges for using a space like a church for the service, preparing the deceased's body for burial, the burial plot, the casket, and more. An average funeral often costs thousands of dollars that many families are unprepared to pay. The defendant who caused your loved one's death can be made to cover these costs.
Family members may also sue for the loss of companionship and financial support from the decedent. Damages may vary depending on the relationship between you and the decedent. For example, if the decedent was your spouse and was the primary income earner for your household, your damages for lost financial support might be quite high. However, if the decedent was your adult child who supported themselves, you could probably not include damages for lost support.
Under Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1(2)(a), damages specifically for a surviving family member's “grief” may not be included. While being sad, upset, or angry over the wrongful death of a loved one are perfectly normal emotions, they are not compensable damages in Indiana, as they are in many other states. This might sound strange since the “loss of consortium” or “companionship,” which have deep emotional connotations, are compensable damages in Indiana. However, these damages do not compensate you specifically for your grief but the love and support you would have received had the deceased survived. This is a convoluted and complicated distinction, which in our opinion should not exist. However, we can help explain the difference in detail if you contact us. Most importantly, you should know it is still possible to obtain a substantial award for the wrongful death of a loved one even without compensation specifically for “grief.”
A family member may also sue for a loss of a loved one’s services. We often rely on family for help in our everyday lives. In some cases, family members regularly help each other and provide important services. For example, many adult children provide daily caregiving services to their older or sick parents. If your loved one provided you with a regular service that is now lost, you may be able to include the cost of that loss in your damages. In our experience, it is very important to use a skilled economic expert to calculate these losses, because they are often far greater than imagined. As part of our representation, we hire top economists to quantify this evidence for our clients so that we obtain the maximum recovery.
Call our Indianapolis wrongful death lawyers today to discuss the damages in your case. Plaintiffs are often surprised at the true extent of their damages and underestimate how much their case is worth.
Wrongful death cases are treated differently depending on the age of the deceased person. When an adult passes away, they often leave behind an estate which becomes the focus of the lawsuit. Children, however, often do not have estates. Surviving family members also tend to experience a different type of loss when a child passes away.
While medical bills, funeral expenses, and similar damages can be claimed for the wrongful death of a child just as they can in the death of an adult, there are unique damages for cases involving children. For example, parents can sue for damages related to costs of psychiatric treatment to cope with their deep loss. Not only that, but certain debts incurred by the child, like student loans, can count toward damages in a child's wrongful death case.
Most significantly, parents may recover for the loss of companionship of their child through age 20, or age 24 if the child was a full time student. These are frequently the largest component of damages, and in our experience can often be valued in the millions of dollars, depending on the unique circumstance of each case.
In an adult case, the personal representative of the deceased's estate must file the claim. Under the Indiana Child Wrongful Death Statute, claims for recovery can be brought without opening an estate by the parents or legal guardian of the child. Because there may be more than one parent with custody, there is a complex system under Indiana law for determining how a parent brings a lawsuit and notifies or involves other parents or guardians. This should be discussed with a lawyer as soon as possible.
While the damages in a wrongful death case may be numerous, they are not unlimited. Indiana law imposes certain limitations on what kind of damages can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded to plaintiffs to punish defendants for bad behavior. However, punitive damages are not allowed in wrongful death lawsuits.
Similarly, courts do not permit damages related to a person's grief in a wrongful death lawsuit. This means you cannot demand compensation purely because of the emotional effects of your loved one's death. However, this situation becomes complicated as damages are permitted for loss of companionship or consortium. These emotional losses are arguably intertwined with grief, but they can still be compensated in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, damages may be capped at $300,000 in certain cases involving the death of unmarried adults without dependent children.
Contact our Indianapolis wrongful death attorney for guidance if you are unsure what damages you can claim in your lawsuit.
How damages are paid out is not always clear to surviving loved ones. Many people falsely believe that all damages in a wrongful death case go directly to the next of kin. However, this is not always so. Certain damages are awarded directly to surviving family members, but others are not.
Damages paid to compensate for the losses of the deceased person, such as medical bills, pain and suffering, and more, are paid to the deceased's estate. Surviving family may or may not receive this money based on the contents of the deceased's last will. For example, a family could file a wrongful death lawsuit, have damages paid to the deceased's estate, and ultimately walk away with nothing because the deceased left their entire estate to a charitable organization.
Damages paid to the family include those for the family's losses related to the wrongful death. Loss of consortium, companionship, and support may be paid to the family members who experienced those losses. If you are unsure about what kind of damages might be involved in your case, speak with our Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys today.
Generally, a plaintiff must bring a wrongful death lawsuit within 2 years of the decedent's death. However, this time frame may change depending on how the decedent died. Medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death may follow a different statute of limitations.
It is imperative to file your claim sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more you risk losing evidence, witnesses, and other support for your case. However, waiting might be a good idea if someone's intentional criminal act caused your loved one's death. If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty in criminal court, you may use that verdict or plea in your civil action. Talk to our Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys for more information.
If you recently lost a loved one and believe their death was caused by someone else's negligence or failure to act, you may have a wrongful death claim. Our Indianapolis wrongful death lawyers can help you get the compensation your family deserves. Call Wruck Paupore at (219) 322-1166 for a free legal consultation.
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Don is a founding partner and one of the nation’s top-ranked personal injury litigators. He is a member of the Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum, which includes less than 1% of the nation’s trial lawyers, and awarded the highest ranking given by Martindale Hubbel and AVVO.
More importantly, Don understands representing personal injury victims is about more than recovering the best settlement: it’s about helping clients get back on their feet and supporting them in every aspect of their recovery.
In nearly all cases, our clients seek compensation from the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Before forming Wruck Paupore, Jason worked for a prominent law firm representing some of the world’s largest insurers. This experience gives Jason a deep understanding of the insurance industry and the strategies it uses to pay injury victims as little as possible.
Jason -- and our entire team -- put this inside knowledge to work to force insurance companies to pay what is actually owed. Often, we use the insurance company’s own tactics against them as we fight for the full compensation our client deserves.
For more than four decades, Keith has been fighting for injury victims. During that time, he’s watched the insurance industry change, with insurers now more interested in protecting their stock price than treating injury victims fairly.
Since the beginning, Keith has put people first. From his childhood in Gary, Indiana during the 1960’s and working his way through law school, Keith has risen to become one of the Midwest’s most respected trial lawyers. He has never forgotten that being a lawyer is about helping people -- and seeing injury victims through struggles in a way that could change their lives forever.
Over the decades, Keith, Don and Jason have fought relentlessly for clients, even when other lawyers have said the case was impossible to win.
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