Wrongful Death Definition, Components & Compensation

Wrongful death refers to the cases where a person’s misconduct or negligence kills another person. The surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the suspected wrongdoer for “wrongful death”. Most wrongful death cases are filed in the event of criminal trials and use the same evidences. In spite of that, a person’s involvement in another person’s wrongful death is not enough to prove his liability for the crime associated with the tragic incident.

In the wake of a person’s wrongful death, only the personal representative of the victim’s estate is allowed to lodge a lawsuit. A set of wrongful death statute is followed in every state and it clearly specifies how to bring wrongful death actions against the suspect. The personal representative is entitled to bring actions for injury, pain and expenses suffered by the decedent before his death. The compensation award for these actions is provided to the estates or allotted to a third party as mentioned in the victim’s will.

What Makes a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit must have the following components to prove the unjust actions:

  • Death of a person
  • Death caused by another person’s intentional or unintentional wrongdoing
  • Financial suffering of the surviving family members in the event of the person’s death
  • Appointment of someone to represent the victim’s estate
  • Airplane or automobile accident
  • Medical malpractice that caused person’s death
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals or conditions at workplace
  • Criminal behaviour resulting in person’s death

Defining Damages in Wrongful Death

In wrongful death lawsuits, financial or pecuniary injury is considered the prime yardstick for damage measurement. Pecuniary injuries have been defined and described in a broader term and include loss of service, support and inheritance as well as medical bills and funeral expenses. According to wrongful death law, compensation for the incident must be enough for pecuniary damages resulting from victim’s death.

If the representative paid for medical care and funeral expenses of the decedent, he/she will be able to recover those from compensation damage award. Last but not the least; compensation award also includes interest from the date the decedent expired on.

Pecuniary Loss Determination

When it comes to pecuniary loss determination, it is important to consider the following parameters:

  • Age
  • Condition & character of the victim
  • Intelligence
  • His/her ability to earn
  • Medical condition
  • Life expectancy
  • Distributees’ circumstances

It seems to be a simple and straightforward process of determining pecuniary loss but in essence, involves complexity. The decedent’s condition and circumstances at the time of his/her death are usually the main point of consideration. If the decedent in question is an earning person, the lion’s share of the damage award is based on loss of wage and parental guidance. For the juries, the main points of concern are the victim’s earning at his time of death and potential future income.

An expert wrongful death cases lawyer has specialization and experience in the field. He is well versed with the wrongful death laws and compensation claims. Such a helping hand is important to get the right amount of damage award and bring the wrongdoer to book.