What Damages Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

carlsoninjuryWrongful Death

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The death of a loved one can take an enormous emotional and financial toll on surviving family members. And when that death is the result of someone’s negligence or malice, it can be even more difficult to cope.

Under such circumstances, the victim’s family may seek compensation for their loss by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. These lawsuits aim to compensate surviving family members for the damages incurred because of the loss. 

It’s important to understand the kinds of losses (or damages, in legal language) that might be compensated in wrongful death cases, and those that typically won’t be. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the specifics in detail.

But first, let’s dive into what a wrongful death claim is.

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought when one person dies due to someone else’s harmful actions. Usually, the plaintiff (the one filing the case) is a close family member of the victim or the administrator of their estate. On the other hand, the defendant is the person, business, or other entity allegedly responsible for the victim’s death. 

These claims aim to compensate the victim’s loved ones for their losses, including medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and emotional pain/suffering. Note that wrongful death claims are separate from any criminal charges filed against the other party. 

Under Utah law, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years after the date of death. If you wait too long, your case might not be heard, even if it has merit. Hence, it’s important to get in touch with a reputable wrongful death attorney in Utah before you run out of time.

What Are the Typical Damages for Wrongful Death?

The damages available in wrongful death cases vary from state to state. That said, it’s possible to secure compensation for a wide range of losses. Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities. 

A. Economic Damages

Economic damages in wrongful death, also known as pecuniary damages, refer to the financial losses the victim’s family suffered due to their passing. They’re often categorized as follows.

Medical Expenses

When a loved one passes away due to someone else’s negligence, the family is often burdened with substantial medical expenses for treatments leading up to the unfortunate event. Economic damages for wrongful death cases may include compensation for these costs, such as hospital bills, doctor fees, medications, and other relevant expenses.

Funeral and Burial Expenses

Funeral and burial expenses can impose a significant financial strain on grieving families. In a wrongful death case, economic damages may cover the cost of funeral services, caskets, burial plots, and more, offering financial relief to the victim’s family.

Loss of Income and Financial Support

One of the most significant damages in a wrongful death case is the loss of the victim’s future income and earning capacity. Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for the loss of this financial support, covering future earnings that would have contributed to the household.

Loss of Benefits

Beyond salary and wages, families may lose access to health insurance, retirement benefits, and other employment-related perks. Wrongful death lawsuits can seek compensation for the value of these lost benefits and provide a lifeline for families grappling with the sudden absence of their loved ones. 

Compared to non-economic damages, economic damages in wrongful death are easier to capture in dollars and cents. However, they often require the input of financial/economic experts. A wrongful death attorney in Utah can assist you in this regard.

B. Non-Economic Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

Wrongful death cases can result in significant emotional and psychological harm to the victim’s family. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate them for their trauma.

Pain and Suffering

While economic wrongful death damages focus on tangible losses, non-economic damages address the intangible, including the emotional toll on surviving family members. Pain and suffering compensation attempts to quantify the mental anguish, grief, and emotional distress experienced by those left behind.

Loss of Consortium 

This unique form of non-economic damage recognizes the impact of death on the relationships within the family. Loss of consortium compensates for the deprivation of companionship, support, and intimacy that the surviving spouse, children, or other close relatives may endure. 

Understanding Contributory Negligence

Legally speaking, contributory negligence is a legal term that refers to a situation in which the deceased person contributed to their own death through their negligent actions. If the court finds the deceased person partially responsible for their death, the number of damages awarded to the family may be reduced. 

Take this as an example. If the deceased person was involved in a car accident and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, the court might conclude they contributed to their own injuries and death.

Who Can Receive Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? 

While determining wrongful death damages, a court will look into the specifics of the state’s laws and interpret them as part of an analysis of the victim’s relationship with different family members. However, wrongful death compensation usually goes to: 

  • Spouse: The surviving spouse can claim for lost companionship and the financial aftermath of their partner’s death. 
  • Children: Minor children may also be awarded damages for the lost benefits of their relationship with a deceased parent. 
  • Parents: Parents of a minor child who has passed in an accident can also recover emotional distress damages, depending on the situation. 

How Much is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?

Unfortunately, there’s no cookie-cutter answer to this question. The amount of compensation in wrongful death cases varies based on a host of specific factors, such as: 

  • The victim’s age, income, and earning capacity when they died, considering their life expectancy. Younger victims with dependents may see higher economic damages, while older individuals may have lower economic damages, but potentially higher non-economic damages based on the emotional impact on surviving family members. 
  • The plaintiff’s age and the nature of their relationship with the victim. Spouses, children, and parents may receive different awards based on their unique relationships with the victim. 
  • The family’s financial dependence on the victim. Those who were financially reliant on the victim may be entitled to higher economic damages to compensate for the loss of financial support. 
  • The specifics of the state’s wrongful death law when it comes to who’s eligible to recover what. 

The Bottom Line

Wrongful death lawsuits are complex and emotionally charged, seeking justice for the irreparable loss of a loved one. Understanding the types of damages available – both economic and non-economic – is essential in navigating the legal process. While no amount of compensation can replace the void left by a loved one, these damages aim to provide financial relief and hold responsible parties accountable for their actions. 

Are you seeking justice for the wrongful death of a loved one? Our compassionate and experienced wrongful death attorneys in Utah are here to help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve. Take the first step towards justice. Call us today!