What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?


July 8, 2019 / Wrongful Death

If you’ve lost a close family member unexpectedly, you may be in shock, overwhelmed with grief, and not thinking clearly. The last thing on your mind may be tracking down who is responsible and initiating a lawsuit. But when you are ready, it’s something you should consider. There is a whole slew of expenses that come along with a relative’s passing, and you should not — and may not even be able to  — pay them if someone else is at fault.

No payout is going to bring back the person you love or ease the sense of loss you feel. But it will reduce the financial burden of your loved one’s death and ensure the responsible parties pay, as they should.

What qualifies as a wrongful death lawsuit? Am I entitled to take the people responsible for my family member’s death to court ? The compassionate lawyers at Stephenson Rife will be happy to discuss the details of your case and advise you how to proceed. In Indiana, you have two years from the date of death to file a lawsuit. Call us to schedule a free consultation.

What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a case brought by the survivors of the deceased against the parties responsible for their family member’s death. In Indiana, the personal representative of the person’s estate sues on behalf of the victim’s family members — typically, a spouse, parent, guardian, or children.

State law defines wrongful death as when “the death of one is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another.” The plaintiff’s lawyer must prove that the defendant is liable for the death and that the plaintiff has suffered damages as a result. Examples of wrongful death cases include:

More than one party may be found to be at fault for the death. Car collisions are the most common type of wrongful death case. If the driver of the other vehicle was drunk at the time of the accident, he may be found liable along with the bar owner or bartender who served him an excessive amount of alcohol.

What Damages May Be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

One distinction between a wrongful death case and a standard personal injury claim is that “pain and suffering” is not applicable to wrongful death. Generally speaking, family members may be awarded economic damages only, although they may ask for compensation for loss of love and companionship. Damages in a typical case include:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits, such as a pension
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Any medical expenses accrued before the death
  • Reasonable costs related to the lawsuit, like attorney fees
  • Uninsured debt left by a child
  • The cost of administering a child’s estate
  • Psychological counseling fees for the family.

If the deceased was an unmarried adult with no dependents, compensation is capped at $300,000. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on how much may be awarded by the court.

Don’t let the statute of limitations run out on your loved one’s wrongful death. Call Mike Stephenson to schedule an appointment.

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