A Quick Start Guide to Wrongful Death Claims in Indiana

Indiana has laws in place about wrongful death claims. Like other states, these laws are unique to Indiana. The wrongful death statute, Indiana Code 34-23-1, considers a wrongful death any death of a person caused by the act or omission of another.

Decoding the Statute: What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

Death is not always a “wrongful” death. Instead, wrongful death is a personal injury lawsuit where the injured party dies. Thus, had they lived, they would have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible for their death.

Because the victim is no longer alive, family members serve in their place in the lawsuit for monetary damages and to hold the responsible party liable for their actions.

Wrongful death lawsuits go through civil proceedings and are not criminal cases. Consequently, criminal proceedings might be tied to that death – such as a motor vehicle death or drunken driver accident.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Not all parties can file a wrongful death claim. Instead, the statute requires that the claim be filed by a personal representatives of the deceased’s estate. Damages can be awarded to multiple parties, including the spouse, surviving children, and dependents of the deceased. If more than one person is eligible for damages, the court determines how to portion out the damages among all parties.

Thus, one party files the lawsuit on behalf of the estate and the family members and estate can receive the compensation from the lawsuit. The entire family does not file the suit. Not every case can be brought– there must be certain surviving family members .

Damage Caps in Wrongful Death Claims

There are three statutes: The Wrongful Death Act, the Child Wrongful Death Act, and the Adult Wrongful Death Act. Damages awarded in these cases vary, and some have caps. (There are certain issues that arise when the Wrongful Death is caused by medical malpractice, so it is important that you discuss these claims with someone who practices in that area.)

  • Wrongful Death Act – The primary wrongful death claim that allows representatives to file a claim. There is no cap on damages, but damages are only awarded for medical costs, hospital bills, funeral and burial expenses, and anything reasonably related to the death.
  • Child Wrongful Death Act – This act applies to those who are not married and have no dependents. The age of the child must be 20 years or less or 23 years or less if the adult child is in college. A viable fetus does qualify for the wrongful death of a child. There is no specific cap, but time periods for damages are set.
  • Adult Wrongful Death Act – A person who dies without a spouse, children, or dependents and does not meet the definitions of the Child Wrongful Death Act, falls into this category. In general, damages are limited to a maximum of $300,000 above medical damages..

The Statute of Limitations

In Indiana, a statute of limitations on all types of civil cases applies- this is a timeline for bringing a claim. As a general rule, for a wrongful death claim, you only have two years from the date of the death to file your claim. If you do not file within the two-year window, the court may refuse the request and dismiss your case. When a governmental entity could be involved in the claim, it is imperative that you contact an attorney to discuss that involvement, as notice of a governmental tort claim must be given soon after the claim arises– in some instances as early as 180 days after the cause of action arises!)

Speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney

Damages in these forms of cases are highly complex. Hence, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney to see which wrongful death act applies to your loss.

While no dollar amount can make up for the loss of a loved one, having compensation to cover expenses can help lessen the burden so that you and relatives may grieve.

For help with a wrongful death claim, speak with an advocate at Jacobs Law, LLC today.