The death of a loved one is a painful event, and no amount of money can fix it. However, it is useful to pursue a wrongful death claim or lawsuit so that the surviving family members do not have to suffer more than they already have. Depending on your state's laws concerning wrongful death, here are some of the damages you may be able to recover.
There are numerous non-economic damages in wrongful death cases, and their value may even outweigh those of economic damages. Some of the damages you may pursue include:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of protection
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (marital relations) if the deceased was your spouse
These damages are difficult to compute, which is why most states have caps (limits) on how much the surviving loved ones can receive. In cases where the award is decided by the jury, the jurors aren't told about the cap; they just come up with an award they think is appropriate. After that, the court can reduce it in line with the cap.
These are meant to provide for the financial contributions that the loved one would have made if he or she didn't die. The most obvious one is the loss of earnings whose value depends on different factors such as the age of the deceased, earnings at the time of death and level of education or training. Other economic damages for this period include loss of benefits such as medical coverage and loss of inheritance.
Punitive damages are meant to punish and serve as a warning to the defendant, especially if his or her negligent act was extreme. Whereas economic and non-economic damages are available in all states, punitive damages are not. In some states, they are only allowed against certain parties (such as nursing homes), but not others (such as government bodies).
Lastly, there are also a few states that allow you to recover the cost of the lawsuit. These include the attorney's fees, transport costs, documentation costs, expert witness fees and any other costs you may have incurred in the lawsuit.
Note that some states only allow either wrongful death claims or survival actions claims, but not both. Wrongful death claims are concerned with the losses experienced by the decadents loved ones due to his or her demise while survival actions are meant to compensate for the victims suffering between his or her accident and demise. Consult an attorney (such as Gomez May LLP) to know whether your state allows both claims, and which one to file for if you have to choose.