What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Posted in: Wrongful Death | Mar 15,2023

The death of a family member is a devastating event, no matter the cause. If their death could have been prevented—or if it resulted from someone else’s negligence—it can be all the more upsetting. While no monetary support can ever replace the tragic loss of a family member, a successful wrongful death lawsuit can hold the negligent party accountable for their actions and give your family some of the closure and resources needed to move forward. This post examines what is a wrongful death lawsuit, who can file one, and what damages may be available to those left grieving. 

A wrongful death case is a civil lawsuit brought by a deceased individual’s estate against the person or entity whose negligence resulted in the individual’s death.

The damages in a wrongful death case refer to losses suffered by the deceased’s surviving family in the wake of their loved one’s death. For example, suppose you or your family depended on your loved one for income and benefits such as health insurance. In that case, you may sue for compensation to ensure your emotional pain is not compounded by fears for your livelihood. 

What constitutes wrongful death in Indiana?

According to Indiana law, wrongful death is a death caused by the wrongful act of another person or entity. This can be an act of negligence or an intentional act. 

Some of the most common causes of wrongful death examples include auto accidents caused by reckless driving, dangerous products or medical devices, medical malpractice, or intentional acts of violence. If caused by a deliberate act, wrongful death criminal charges may also apply. Both criminal and civil charges can result from a single incident. 

Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in Indiana?

State laws govern the details involving who can legally bring a wrongful death lawsuit forward, what damages they can sue for, and how those damages are distributed. Notably, cases must be filed within Indiana’s two-year wrongful death statute of limitations.

Only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit in Indiana. The personal representative is often the executor of the person’s will, although it is not always the same as who is given power of attorney before the deceased’s death. Additionally, the personal representative may not necessarily be among those who stand to receive compensation. 

It is critical to note that the individual who may file the wrongful death lawsuit may not be able to receive damages or any other inheritance. State law specifies who is eligible to receive compensation resulting from a wrongful death claim—typically, this is limited to surviving spouses, children, and parents. 

If you are unsure who has the right to file a wrongful death claim and who can receive compensation following a potentially negligent fatality, a wrongful death attorney can help you sort out the necessary details, facts, and figures.

Damages in Indiana wrongful death claims

Damages in a wrongful death settlement may include economic and non-economic damages covering:

● Loss of future income and benefits

● Funeral and burial expenses

● Medical expenses

● Loss of services provided

● Loss of companionship, guidance, and affection

● Pain and suffering

The damages that apply in each case will depend on the affected decedent and who is filing the lawsuit. For example, the parents of a deceased child will receive different damages than the surviving spouse of a deceased adult. 

The manner for distributing damages will also depend on the unique circumstances of the case and the individuals involved. 

Wrongful death damage caps

Some states, including Indiana, limit compensation in a wrongful death claim. In Indiana, these limits depend on the specific details of the case.

If the deceased individual has a spouse or dependent children, there is no cap on the possible damages. Likewise, there is no damage cap if the deceased was a child—defined as an individual up to 20 years old (or 23 if enrolled in school). 

However, if the deceased is an unmarried adult aged 23 or older with no dependents, damages are capped at $300,000 plus medical and funeral expenses.

If the wrongful death occurred because of medical malpractice, damages are capped at $1,800,000. However, if the wrongful death occurred because of government negligence, damages are capped at $700,000. 

What is the difference between wrongful death and survival action?

Another type of lawsuit that can result from fatal injuries is known as a survival action lawsuit.

While wrongful death lawsuits are concerned with the damages suffered by surviving family members of the deceased, a survival action focuses on the suffering endured by the deceased.

A survival action is similar to a personal injury lawsuit but is brought on behalf of an individual who is no longer living. Damages in a survival action include:

  • The medical expenses incurred by the victim prior to their death.
  • Any damage to their vehicle or property.
  • The pain or suffering they endured.

If the victim filed a personal injury lawsuit before succumbing to their injuries, the case might continue after their death via survival action. 

When you need a wrongful death lawyer, trust Montross Miller.

If your spouse, child, or parent has died due to someone else’s negligence, navigating the complex legal landscape of wrongful death and inheritance laws can be challenging.

A wrongful death attorney at Montross Miller can guide your family through each step, answering your questions and working tirelessly to bring your family as much peace as possible. Reach out to our team of legal experts today to schedule your free, confidential case evaluation.