Types of Wrongful Death Damages in Indiana
January 18, 2018 / Wrongful Death
We say that a wrongful death has occurred when someone has died due to the carelessness, negligence, or wrongful actions of another party or parties. In such a case, a lawsuit can be filed on behalf of family members who are suffering from the loss of companionship and financial support that the deceased would have provided. Wrongful deaths can occur in cases of medical malpractice, work accidents, and personal injury situations (such as vehicular crashes) when negligence is involved.
A wrongful death suit enables you to ask for damages. Damages, a legal concept, are monetary and are intended to make the survivors whole again. While no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a loved one, damages can ease the way of dependents left behind who are saddled with bills and who have few financial resources of their own.
Damages can be either economic or non-economic. “Economic damages” can include the deceased’s medical and burial expenses, lost wages (including future earnings), loss of their household services, and the costs of administering the deceased’s estate. “Non-economic” damages can consist of the pain and suffering of the deceased, the loss of the deceased’s love and affection, and the loss of the deceased’s parental guidance.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action?
Generally, only certain family members can sue on behalf of the person who suffered the wrongful death, meaning parents or legal guardians, spouses, and children, including adopted children. If they are still married, both parents must file in the case of a child’s death. If the parents are divorced, the parent with custody files. If that parent is deceased, a personal representative will be appointed to pursue the wrongful death case.
In Indiana, technically, it is the personal representative of the deceased’s estate who files the wrongful death suit; the family members become the estate’s beneficiaries and collect from the court. They will make the decision on how to split the proceeds of the damages among them should the case be won.
Who Can Recover Damages in a Wrongful Death Suit?
In Indiana, the persons who can recover wrongful death damages are as follows:
- The spouse of a deceased adult
- The dependent children of a deceased adult
- A deceased adult’s surviving dependent who is next of kin
- The parents or nondependent children of an unmarried deceased adult without dependents
- The parents or guardians of a deceased child
- The personal representative of a deceased unmarried adult who died with no next of kin or dependents; damages are added to the deceased’s estate.
What Are “Caps?”
Caps are limits placed upon the damages that can be recovered.
In Indiana, the existing caps include:
- Death caused by medical malpractice: $1.25 million cap
- Death caused by government entity: $700,000 cap
- Loss of love and companionship by a deceased, unmarried adult with no dependents: $300,000 cap.
What Types of Damages Can Be Recovered?
The types of damages, and the amounts that can be recovered, vary with the person who filed the claim. All those who file a wrongful death action can recover “reasonable” medical expenses and burial expenses for the deceased. In addition, all those who file except those who survive a child can recover the costs of administering the estate.
Additional damages, and those who can recover them, include the following:
- A surviving spouse, surviving dependent children, and surviving next of kin who are dependents can seek lost wages, future earnings, and loss of affection damages (no cap).
- A surviving spouse can seek loss of household services damages (no cap).
- Surviving dependent children can seek loss of parental guidance damages (no cap).
- Parents and/or nondependent children can seek “reasonable” attorney’s fees damages. They can also seek damages for the loss of love and companionship (capped at $300,000).
- The personal representative of a deceased unmarried adult who died with no next of kin or dependents can seek “reasonable” attorney’s fees damages.
- The parents or guardians of a deceased child can recover a number of damages unique to their status: the loss of a child’s love, care, and affection; the “reasonable” costs of psychiatric care for surviving parents and minor brothers and sisters; and funds to pay a deceased child’s uninsured debts, including debts for which the parents are legally responsible. Parents and guardians can also recover loss of household services damages. There are no caps as long as the child was either under 20 or under 23 if they were in college.
While some types of damages may have no caps, other restrictions under Indiana law may apply. In certain cases, complex calculation methods to determine the damages may be relevant. Because Indiana law is complicated, it is in your best interests to seek an attorney who has a track record of winning wrongful death suits.
Trusted advisors. Proven advocates.
If someone else’s negligence caused or contributed to the situation in which a loved one died, you should not be the one to bear the associated costs. When you are considering hiring a personal injury lawyer, you should look for an attorney who will give you competent and compassionate representation with a “client first” approach. That’s exactly what you’ll get with proven advocate Mike Stephenson. His entire legal team is committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. Don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your life back on track and to make your family’s future financially secure. Call Mike Stephenson at 1-317-825-5200 or contact us for immediate help.