Under state law, wrongful death is generally defined as the death of an individual due to another party’s negligent, wrongful, or careless actions or inactions. Like in many other states, wrongful death claims are subject to certain laws that specifically govern these types of lawsuits, including the process, the available damages, and the deadline for filing such a claim.
The civil court process can be complex for individuals inexperienced in civil litigation, and cases involving an untimely death have additional requirements to meet. An experienced attorney could review your situation and determine if it constitutes a wrongful death case.
Several types of situations and events may form a basis for a wrongful death claim, including, but not limited to vehicle accidents and slip and falls, medical malpractice, or criminal offenses. It is often helpful to think of a wrongful death case as a type of personal injury lawsuit, except that the injured individual passed away and can no longer file a claim on their own. It is also important to understand that a wrongful death can occur due to someone’s inaction, such as a doctor failing to properly diagnose a patient.
When determining what constitutes a civil claim, it is also critical to understand how state law defines a wrongful death. Under state law, there are three different statutes relating to the specific types of wrongful death lawsuits.
The general wrongful death statute provides the dependents of a deceased individual with an opportunity to recover damages. The typical damages that might be recoverable in a general wrongful death case include, but are not limited to, expenses for medical care, a funeral, and burial and lost income and future earnings of the deceased individual. If a claim is successful and compensation is awarded to the dependents, the compensation first goes to the deceased individual’s estate to pay for any medical or funeral costs before going to the heirs.
If a deceased individual is not a child, is unmarried, and has no children or dependents, the recoverable damages are typically the same but the loss of the deceased person’s companionship and love may also be recoverable. Although additional damages are available under this wrongful death claim, the amount of compensation for these additional damages is capped at $300,000, according to Indiana Code § 34-23-1-2.
The last type of wrongful death statute under state law relates to individuals that are unmarried and less than 20 years old, or if the individual was in a postsecondary educational institution at the time of death, under 23 years of age. The damages available under a child’s wrongful death include the costs for medical care and a funeral. Additional damages may be available for loss of the child’s services, loss of the child’s companionship and love, and expenses for counseling by parents, siblings, or others. Additionally, there is no cap on the recoverable compensation under a child wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be especially complicated because of the increased requirements under state law. If you believe your close loved one died due to the actions of another party, it might be a good idea to consult with a dedicated wrongful death lawyer. Schedule a case evaluation today.
Yosha Cook & Tisch – Personal Injury Lawyers