Wrongful death can happen in numerous ways whether from a car accident, slip and fall, or medical error. Regardless of how it happens, losing a loved one is traumatic. It not only causes emotional grief, but the economic impact can be equally devastating for loved ones. It does not matter how a loved one died, the subject of wrongful death is sensitive.
That is why family members should not only speak with an attorney and discuss their options, but also educate themselves about the legal process if they wish to pursue a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party. Numerous statutes affect how wrongful death cases are handled – including which parties can file for compensation, the amount, and limitations.
Who Can Legally File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indianapolis?
The state of Indiana requires that a legal representative of the estate files the wrongful death case. This might be a surviving spouse, child, or another adult. However, they must be the estate representative and file on behalf of the estate.
Estate representatives, also known as personal representatives and administrators, are not selected by surviving family. Instead, they are appointed by the court to represent the estate’s best interests.
Regardless of who is the representative of the estate, damages are still awarded to the estate itself. That means they go to the decedent’s spouse, children, or other surviving family members who would have been financially dependent on the deceased. If the adult that has passed away has no spouse, minor children, or dependents, then the damages can be awarded to surviving parents or adult children.
When the decedent is a child, there is no need to create an official estate. Instead, the surviving parents would file the wrongful death claim on behalf of their child without the need for a personal representative.
Why Do Families Opt to File Wrongful Death Claims?
When you lose someone due to someone else’s purposeful or negligent acts, you have financial and emotional losses to deal with. The emotional damages are more apparent at first followed soon after by the economic impact of the loss. And while no amount of money could bring back the loss of a loved one, many surviving family members can benefit from filing a wrongful death claim. These claims are meant to cover financial losses like wages, contributions from health insurance, and other support that the deceased would have provided. These lawsuits can help restore your family’s financial security and ensure that you are not struggling financially while trying to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Furthermore, most families are left with costs that they did not anticipate such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and more, in addition to the loss of income and support. Wrongful death lawsuits are designed to compensate for these losses so that the victim’s family is not left shouldering the burden.
What Damages Can Family Members Receive for a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death cases are not criminal – they are civil. Therefore, you seek civil damages against the at-fault party for your loss. Indiana does have some limitations on what damages you can receive in a wrongful death case. Therefore, you should consult with an attorney to see what restrictions could apply to your case and if there are damage caps that will apply. Some common restrictions include:
- Situations with No Damage Caps – When the deceased leaves behind a spouse or minor children, the state imposes no damage caps on the award. Therefore, the amount awarded is based solely on the jury’s discretion and the details of that case – including the economic damages. If the deceased is under the age of 20, there is also no limit on damages awarded in a wrongful death claim.
- Situations with Damage Caps – If the deceased was over the age of 20, unmarried, and had no minor dependent, the courts do cap non-economic damages at $300,000. Reimbursement for medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and attorneys’ fees can be awarded on top of the non-economic damages. Also, there is a cap in medical malpractice cases of $1,250,000.
When Does a Case Qualify for Wrongful Death?
Not all deaths are “wrongful” in the eyes of the law. However, specific situations may increase the chances of a wrongful death claim:
- Medical Malpractice – Any error or incident of negligence in a hospital or medical provider setting that causes someone’s death could lead to a wrongful death case.
- Personal Injury Cases – Most wrongful deaths stem from injuries that would have resulted in a personal injury claim – had the victim survived. For example, a slip and fall down a staircase that causes catastrophic injuries and death or a motor vehicle accident.
- Work Injuries – Sometimes severe injuries and deaths happen on the job. And in those cases, the victim’s family could file a wrongful death claim. While these accidents are not common in most fields of employment, work-related deaths in construction and factory industries a more common occurrence.
Speak with an Attorney Regarding Your Case
The team at Jacobs Law, LLC offers free consultations to all potential clients. Also, we do not collect our fee unless we win your case. If you lost a loved one because of someone’s intentional or negligent acts, do not hesitate. The law limits how long you have to file your wrongful death case, and our attorneys can aggressively seek compensation on your behalf.
Call us today or connect with a team member by completing the online contact form.