Damages Collectible in a Wrongful Death Claim

Tim Miley
Injury Lawyer, Author, & Owner of The Miley Legal Group

When a loved one has been the victim of someone else’s careless or reckless actions and it results in a loss of life, a claim may be filed against the individual or entity responsible. Whether it was the driver of a motor vehicle or a surgeon who performed an operation, the basis for a wrongful death claim must be that the death was caused by negligence.

It’s important to understand some of the economic and noneconomic damages that could be collected in a claim, as well as who would be entitled to receive them.

Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

This form of compensation addresses the costs incurred and/or financial loss stemming from the wrongful death. To be successful collecting economic damages, there must be evidence that establishes the financial value of each of the damages.

Medical cost is one example. The types of medical costs incurred depend on the circumstances. Let’s say a loved one was killed in a car crash involving a drunk driver. The victim was transported to a hospital via an ambulance, received treatment in an emergency room and was hospitalized for several days before succumbing to his/her injuries.

The resulting medical bills could be recoverable in a wrongful death claim. Another expense is the funeral service. Wrongful death claims will usually address reasonable funeral expenses as well.

Income loss is another example of economic damages that might be collected in a claim. When the loved one contributed financially to the family and now those wages are no longer available, lost earnings are generally recoverable. In some cases it’s possible to recover loss of income from the date of death until expected retirement age.

Noneconomic Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

The aforementioned types of compensation can be proven by demonstrating the value of those damages. But with noneconomic damages, a court must decide what is fair and just. These are the losses that have worth but don’t necessarily impact someone financially. In certain circumstances they will have even more value than monetary damages. Surviving family members could pursue compensation for their mental anguish.

Noneconomic damages are typically addressed as losses pertaining to:

  • comfort;
  • companionship;
  • guidance;
  • training; and
  • advice.

Recovery depends on the relationship and other factors that survivors should discuss with an attorney.

Parties Eligible to Collect Wrongful Death Damages

The decedent’s personal representative will bring the wrongful death action for the benefit of beneficiaries. It’s most common for a spouse and/or children to be awarded damages in a wrongful death claim.

Besides the spouse and children a wrongful death claim can also compensate:

  • stepchildren;
  • siblings;
  • parents; and
  • others who were financially dependent on the deceased.

Keep in mind that the examples provided aren’t all-inclusive. There may be other types of damages (economic and noneconomic) that are recoverable. Each case is unique with its own extenuating circumstances that will impact any award. So it’s important to discuss your situation with an attorney familiar with wrongful death claims.

Legal counsel can also explain:

  • whom may be entitled to compensation;
  • whom is liable;
  • how to prove negligence; and
  • other pertinent information.

Get help from the Miley Legal Group in Clarksburg if you lost a loved one and wish to explore your options for recovering wrongful death damages. Call 304-931-4088 or fill out our contact form.