Indiana has its laws that oversee wrongful death claims. These laws are found in the state’s statutes, and they dictate not only how a wrongful death claim is filed, but who qualifies, and the amount of compensation the victim’s family can receive. Wrongful death claims in Indiana are different than personal injury claims, but they also share similarities. Therefore, to understand how the process differs, you must first understand what the state considers a “wrongful death.”
What Is a Wrongful Death in Indianapolis?
Pursuant to Indiana Code 34-23-1, a wrongful death is one that is caused by the unlawful act or omission of another party. A wrongful death claim is like a personal injury lawsuit, except that the injury victim has died. If the victim had survived, they would have still filed a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. Now that they have passed away, the law allows their family to serve as the plaintiff in the case. They represent the estate of the deceased and can seek damages on the estate’s behalf.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Unlike a personal injury case where the victim would file the claim and be named as the plaintiff, a wrongful death case requires a legal representative of the estate to file. Often the representative is a next of kin, such as a spouse or adult child. The estate’s personal representative might be appointed by the court – depending on the estate plan of the deceased. Regardless of the individual appointed, the settlement goes to the estate itself – not the appointed party. Any relatives that financially depended on the deceased can request a portion of that compensation.
The Statute of Limitations
Personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims carry a similar statute of limitations. The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to file your wrongful death lawsuit and still receive compensation. In Indiana, the statute gives you two years to file the claim. You have two years from the date of the death, or you cannot seek compensation. The same goes for an injury case, but with an injury case, it is two years from the date of the accident, or the date when the victim reasonably discovered that someone’s negligence injured them.
Caps on Wrongful Death Claims in Indiana
Civil damages are a term that refers to the compensation given to the estate for the loss of their loved one. While a personal injury case does not have any damages caps – meaning a limitation on how much the victim might receive – a wrongful death claim does. Some damages are capped, while others are not. Therefore, you must speak with an attorney to see if your case will be subject to damages caps. Here are some examples of where a case might have damages caps (or not).
- Medical Malpractice Wrongful Death – If medical error or negligence caused the death, the law limits a number of damages in these cases to $1,250,000 for all types of malpractice claims.
- Adult with Children – An adult with a spouse and children does not have a damages cap. Instead, the judge or jury will decide the amount based on the needs of the estate and the individual details that make up the case.
- Under 20 – If the individual was under the age of 20, or under 23 years if they are enrolled in college, there is no limit on damages.
- Unmarried Adults – An unmarried adult with no children that is 23 years or older will have damages caps on the amount awarded. In this case, non-economic damages are capped at $300,000. Also, the reimbursement for all medical costs, burial expenses, and attorney fees can be added to that $300,000 cap.
Are All Wrongful Death Cases from Personal Injury Incidents?
In most cases, yes, a wrongful death claim would arise from a personal injury case. The only difference is that the victim is not alive to seek compensation or hold the responsible party liable for their negligence. Numerous types of accidents can cause a wrongful death, including:
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and fall injuries
- Drowning accidents
- Semi-truck accidents
- Motor vehicle or motorcycle accidents
- Work-related injuries
- Nursing home abuse cases
- Product liability cases
- Defective drugs or dangerous drugs
Are the Damages Different in a Wrongful Death Case?
In a wrongful death case, the damages are different than in a personal injury case. Instead of trying to help the victim become financially whole again, these damages are used to compensate loved ones. Some wrongful death damages that a judge or jury might award the victim’s estate include:
- Loss of Financial Support – When the deceased was the primary financial support for the entire house, the quality of life for the remaining family members could be dramatically impacted. In this case, the court would allow compensation for that loss of income and financial support.
- Loss of Household Assistance – If the loved one that has passed away was responsible for taking care of children or the household, family members might seek compensation for that loss – and the costs of finding a replacement.
- Loss of Parental Advice and Rearing – For children who are left without a parent, they may seek compensation for that injury and how it will impact them the rest of their lives.
- Medical Expenses – Because most wrongful death claims arise from an accident case, medical expenses are likely. Therefore, family members can seek compensation for all medical costs that were associated with the initial injury up until the loved one’s death.
- Funeral and Burial Costs – The estate may request reimbursement for funeral and burial costs.
- Lawyer Fees – Lastly, the estate can request that the defendant pays for all attorney’s fees in their case so that they do not lose compensation to a contingency fee.
Meet with a Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Advocate
Not only does Jacobs Law, LLC offers free case evaluations to our potential clients, but our team does not require payment unless we have settled your case. If you have lost someone to the negligent acts of another, contact our attorneys to schedule a no-obligation, free case evaluation.