How is a Wrongful Death Claim Different From an Ordinary Personal Injury Claim?

Other than the fact that they both involve negligence on the part of the defendant, a wrongful death claim is different than an ordinary personal injury claim in the following fundamental ways:

  1. The harm the claim addresses,
  2. The overall goal of the claim,
  3. Who can file the claim,
  4. How long a person has to file a claim, and
  5. What damages can be recovered.

The Harm The Claim Addresses

A personal injury claim is concerned with an individual who has been injured due to another’s negligence, while a wrongful death claim is concerned with the death of an individual as a result of another’s negligence.

Essentially, a wrongful death claim only arises when the behavior that caused the death would have been grounds for a personal injury claim, had the person survived. Thus, a wrongful death claim can be seen as a personal injury claim brought on behalf of the decedent, who cannot do so himself.

The Overall Goal of the Claim

The overall goal of a personal injury claim is to allow the injured party to be reimbursed for damages caused by the party at-fault. However, the goal of a wrongful death claim is to shift the cost associated with the death of a family member from the decedent’s family to the person or entity who caused the death.

Who Can File a Claim

Legal procedures for a wrongful death claim are also somewhat different than in other personal injury cases. A personal injury claim must be filed by the injured party, except when that person is mentally incapacitated or under the age of 18.

In contrast, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate, on behalf of his or her survivors (meaning a spouse, child, sibling, parent, or other relative). In cases where the deceased was a minor, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a parent or legal guardian of the deceased child.

How Long a Person Has to File a Claim

The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Indiana is two years from the date on which the accident occurred. But for a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations is two years from the date the death occurred, which could be later than the date of the accident. In either case, if the claim is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, it will typically be barred from ever being filed.

What Damages Can Be Recovered

Personal injury victims may seek compensation for the following items:

  • Lost earnings, both past and future;
  • Medical expenses related to the injury, including future medical expenses;
  • Pain and suffering; and
  • Punitive damages, in cases of malicious misconduct.