Wrongful deaths often leave the surviving family with many different areas of harms and economic effects that they are left to deal with. With the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney, there may be substantial damages you are entitled to claim in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Typically, wrongful death lawsuits cover economic losses, including the cost of medical care prior to the death, economic damages, funeral and burial costs related to the death. These damages are generally paid to the estate (or directly to whom they are owed). The probate court may then distribute them to members of the surviving family or others entitled to inheritance. Depending upon the specific circumstances, the estate may also recover lost wages of the decedent, lost support for dependents, loss of love and companionship for certain family members, and some other losses which vary by circumstance.
For help understanding damages and filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call Wruck Paupore’s Indiana wrongful death lawyers today at (219) 322-1166. We offer free case evaluations.
Multiple areas of damages can be claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit for a loved one’s death in Indiana. These types of damages are all specified by Indiana statute under IC § 34-23-1-1 and then paid to the appropriate parties.
Unfortunately, Indiana law does not treat the victims of wrongful death fairly in our opinion. In fact, who can recover for the wrongful death of a loved one - and the types of damages they can recover for - are significantly limited as compared to other states.
For example, Indiana does not allow for recovery for the pain and suffering endured by the victim before their death. In fact, if the victim lives for a period of time before their death resulting from a person’s negligence, the person causing the death generally cannot be held liable for the loss of enjoyment of life and pain and suffering of the person that they ultimately killed.
Read More: Wrongful Death Attorneys in South Bend, IN
These are damages that the at-fault party would have been responsible for had the victim lived; however, they become unrecoverable upon that person’s death.
This is absurd in our view. In Indiana, a careless person often has less accountability for their actions when they result in a victim’s death instead of merely injuring them.
Let’s consider the example of a deadly car accident, where the victim suffered serious brain trauma and was rushed to the hospital. Let’s assume that the person survives for a full year, but has severe limitations on their quality of life and suffers constant pain as a result of their injuries. One year later, the victim dies as a result of the car accident.
In a case like this, the victim suffers a number of tragic losses, including:
Keep Reading: What Does Pain and Suffering Cover?
Upon the victim’s death, none of these losses can be recovered for from the person that caused the death. This result is unjust, unfair, and we are constantly advocating for the need to change the law in this area. However, it is the unfortunate reality in Indiana for victims of wrongful death.
Despite the unfair limitations above, loved ones do still have rights to recovery for wrongful death in Indiana, including for economic losses resulting from the accident and resulting death. Certain family members and dependents may also recover for the loss of love and companionship of their loved ones.
Let’s return to our fatal car accident example described above. In addition to devastating non-economic losses suffered by the accident victim before his death, the victim’s injuries and ultimate death also made an enormous economic impact, including:
While these economic losses pale in comparison to the loss of a loved one, these types of economic losses are generally recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit. Specifically, the “reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses, and lost earnings” are recoverable wrongful death damages under Indiana Code § 34-23-1-1.
Especially in cases where death is not immediate, the additional cost of end-of-life medical care often increases these damages. However, even in cases of immediate death, there may be high medical care costs depending on the cause of death and the extraordinary measures taken at the hospital.
Other accidental deaths and injuries from things like wrongfully acquired illness or medical malpractice may lead to substantial lost wages and expensive hospital bills during months or years of battling with a medical condition.
In our example above, economic losses for medical care and lost wages would total $2,755,000.
In addition to these economic losses, surviving loved ones also suffer tremendously, often having lost one of the most important people in their lives. Compensation for this loss of love and companionship by certain family members is also permitted under Indiana law and depends on their relationship the wrongful death victim.
How this recovery works is discussed further below, but because the law in this are is very complicated, it is important to have an experienced Indianapolis wrongful death lawyer review your case to make sure damages are fully accounted for.
After the death of a loved one, your family will be left with expenses to take care of, economic losses, and the awful reality that one of the most important persons in your life is gone. While Indiana law unfairly prevents you from obtaining compensation for all your losses, it does still permit significant recovery.
As discussed above, the funeral and burial costs are paid to the deceased’s estate to pay burial and funeral costs.
The deceased's family will face other economic effects from their loved one’s death. This includes any lost support and income to the household, specifically money that goes to supporting a spouse or dependent children. These damages are paid to the spouse and dependents.
Obviously the most significant loss in a wrongful death case is not economic, but the fact that you have lost a loved one who is irreplaceable. Indiana law permits monetary recovery by certain family members for the lost “love and companionship” of the victim. However, the law specifically precludes recovery for the family member’s “grief.”
While this last restriction is tremendously unfair, damages for lost love and affection are often the single largest part of a wrongful death recovery. If the wrongful death victim dies with a spouse or dependent children or relatives, these damages are not limited in any way.
In another insult to victims of a wrongful death, however, Indiana provides that if the deceased was not married and had no children or dependents, damages for lost love and companionship are typically capped at $300,000 under IC § 34-23-1-2(e).
Where the lost loved one was responsible for children or other dependents, additional damages are recoverable for lost services, lost parental guidance, and some other effects of the deceased’s death.
As any parent knows, they have many roles and responsibilities, and these go unmet if their life is cut short.
Recovery me be made for both the non-economic and economic value of these lost services, including the economic cost of any replacement services.
For example, let’s assume a father is tragically killed in a car accident. The father dutifully drove his daughter to soccer practice every day before he was killed. After his death, the family had to hire a caretaker to do this driving, as well as to perform the many other household activities performed by Dad. Indiana law allows these costs to be recovered as part of a wrongful death lawsuit as well.
By law, wrongful death damages are paid “to the exclusive benefit of the decedent's estate.” Instead of passing directly to the spouse or children, these damages go through the same probate process as the deceased’s will, if they have one.
In cases where someone dies without a surviving spouse or surviving dependents or parents, costs of medical care and burial expenses might actually be paid directly “to the exclusive benefit of the person or persons furnishing” those medical services or “to a funeral director or funeral home for the necessary and reasonable funeral and burial expenses.”
Talk to a Fort Wayne wrongful death lawyer at our firm for a more detailed discussion of the potential damages that could be recovered in your case.
In cases where a child dies rather than an adult, damages are often a bit different. In these cases, the child likely has no income or other financial means of supporting the family or their loved ones. However, household responsibilities and other services, love and companionship, and more can all be claimed by parents as damages. Additionally, since the deceased child would likely not be paying for things like medical care and funeral expenses from their estate, damages for those payments can be claimed here by the plaintiff.
Parents can also seek to get damages for things like mental health counseling to deal with the death. Damages can also be claimed for the child’s debts (if any) and certain other costs.
It is important to note that a “child” for these purposes includes unmarried people under age 20 (or under 23 if they are still in postsecondary education). On the other end of the spectrum, a “child” also includes an unborn child who has reached viability.
When calculating the damages for a parent’s loss of love and companionship of a child who is the victim of a wrongful death, the proper measure of time is the life of the parent. Thus, if a child that is 19-years old dies of a wrongful death, the measure of time for the loss of love and companionship is the remaining life expectancy of the parents, not the 1 year until the child would have turned 20.
Again, since these issues are quite complicated, it is important to work with a Hammond wrongful death attorney to ensure all damages are claimed properly and paid to the right parties.
If you lost a loved one in an accident, our South Bend wrongful death lawyers can help you file your lawsuit through a personal representative and claim any damages you and the deceased’s estate are entitled to. For a free case review, call Wruck Paupore today at (219) 322-1166.
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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.