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How Much Can You Sue For Wrongful Death?

No amount of monetary compensation can bring back a loved one whose death was caused by the negligent or intentional conduct of another party. It can, however, compensate the survivors for the financial harm caused by the death.

Unlike other types of personal injury claims to compensate a victim for injuries suffered as a result of the careless or reckless behavior of another person, damages recovered in a wrongful death claim compensate members of the victim’s family for the losses they incurred. If you believe the death of a family member was caused by the behavior of another party, the following information may prove useful when meeting with a personal injury attorney.

What is a wrongful death claim?

Each state has its laws authorizing and establishing rules for family members of the victims of negligence or intentional conduct to sue the party responsible for damages resulting from the death. Depending upon the laws in a particular state, the damages recoverable by family members may include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Compensation for earnings and support contributed by the victim.
  • Compensation to children for the loss of parental guidance.
  • Loss of companionship of the deceased.
  • Loss of services contributed to the household by the deceased.
  • Emotional pain and suffering endured over the loss of their loved one.

The law in a particular state defines the damages recoverable and the surviving family members entitled to share in them. Most states authorize a representative of the estate of the deceased to pursue the claim for wrongful death on behalf of members of the victim’s family. The representative may be the executor named in the will of the deceased or an administrator appointed by the courts to bring the action.

Although the laws vary from one state to another as far as which members of a family may share in the compensation from a wrongful death claim, most states include the spouse and children of the deceased. When the victim does not have a spouse or children, the laws usually designate the parents of the deceased as having the right to compensation.

Types of wrongful death claims

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidents or unintentional injuries are the third leading cause of death in this country behind heart disease and cancer. Common causes of injuries giving rise to a wrongful death claim include the following:

  • Car and truck accidents: Driver distraction, speeding, failing to yield the right of way, reckless driving, and other forms of negligent behavior causing a collision with another vehicle, pedestrian, or bicycle rider may be the basis for a wrongful death claim when the accident causes death.
  • Medical malpractice: When a mistake by a physician or other health care professional causes the death of a patient, a wrongful death claim may exist. Treatment, diagnosis, and surgical errors that cause or contribute to a patient’s death may be the result of negligence.
  • Product defects: When a product causes an injury resulting in the death of a user, its manufacturer and distributor may be held liable when there is evidence that the product was defective.
  • Workplace accidents: Exposure to toxic substances or other workplace hazards that cause injuries leading to the death of a worker may permit the family of the deceased to sue for damages.
  • Transportation accidents: When negligence causes accidents involving planes, railroads, buses, and other types of transportation accidents, the family of a deceased victim may have a claim against the party or parties responsible for it.

A consultation with an auto accident lawyer can provide advice and guidance when you may not be sure of the rights and options available when a loved one has been killed.

Intentional behavior, such as an assault, may also be grounds for a claim for damages against the offender. Intentional acts that cause injury to another person usually result in an arrest and prosecution of the party committing the act, but civil action may also be available to the family of a victim killed by the attack.

How much is your wrongful death case worth?

Although the laws clearly define the different types of damages you may recover, the actual amount depends on the facts and circumstances of each wrongful death case, including the age and earning capacity of the victim. Another factor could be the law in your state.

Laws in some states limit the damages recoverable by surviving family members. Maryland, for instance, does not limit economic damages, such as funeral expenses and lost earnings. It does, however, put a cap on the amount a court or jury may award for emotional pain and suffering endured by the family of a victim of wrongful death.

A consultation with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling claims on behalf of families of victims may offer insight into its value after reviewing the facts of the case with you. It can also be an opportunity to obtain answers to any questions you may have about the case.

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