Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?

March 1, 2024 / Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence is an incredibly painful experience. In such tragic circumstances, understanding your legal rights is essential. Wrongful death benefits can provide financial relief for surviving family members, but it’s crucial to know who is entitled to these benefits under Indiana law.

The recoverable damages in a wrongful death lawsuit hinge on the age of the deceased and their connection to the claimant(s). Typically, only immediate family members are entitled to receive compensation. For instance, one might be eligible for compensation following the passing of a parent, but not the death of an aunt or uncle.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim, also known as a wrongful death lawsuit, arises when an individual is fatally injured due to another party’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing.

Wrongful death can stem from various incidents such as car accidents, workplace accidents, slip and fall incidents, and the like. These lawsuits help the surviving family members of the deceased to obtain compensation.

This compensation includes costs for funerals, medical expenses, losses in financial support, and pain and suffering, among other considerations.

The disbursement of funds from wrongful death settlements is typically arranged as a structured settlement.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?

In Indiana, only specific individuals are eligible to bring a wrongful death claim. These individuals are known as “wrongful death beneficiaries” and may include:

  • Spouse: The deceased person’s surviving spouse is typically the first in line to bring a wrongful death claim.
  • Children: If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased person’s children may have the right to bring a wrongful death claim. This includes biological, adopted, and stepchildren.
  • Dependents: Individuals financially dependent on the deceased person at the time of their death, such as parents or other relatives, may also have the right to bring a wrongful death claim.
  • Legal Representatives: In cases where there are no surviving spouses, children, or dependents, the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim.

In the event of the passing of a child, specific guidelines apply:

If the child’s demise is considered wrongful, the responsibility of filing a claim falls upon one or both parents. In cases of divorced parents, the parent with legal custody must initiate the claim. Should both parents be deceased or have had their parental rights terminated, the child’s legal guardian assumes the claimant’s role.

According to Indiana law, a child falls under one of these categories when filing a wrongful death claim:

  • A person under the age of 20 with no dependents
  • An unmarried individual under the age of 23 with no dependents who is currently enrolled as a student in college, technical school, or another educational program
  • A fetus that has reached viability.

It’s essential to note that Indiana law may vary in specific circumstances, and the eligibility of wrongful death beneficiaries can be influenced by various factors, including the deceased person’s marital status, parental status, and financial support arrangements.

Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?

When a wrongful death occurs, specific people can be entitled to the benefits. These are typically:

  1. Immediate family members
  2. Dependent family members
  3. Financial dependents.

Let’s look at these in turn.

Immediate Family Members

Under Indiana law, immediate family members are typically the first to claim wrongful death benefits. This includes:

  • Spouses
  • Children (both biological and adopted)
  • Parents (in cases where the deceased was a minor).

Immediate family members are generally considered the primary beneficiaries in wrongful death claims. They may be entitled to compensation for various losses, including loss of financial support, companionship, and emotional support.

Dependent Family Members

In addition to immediate family members, dependent family members who relied on the deceased for financial support may also be entitled to wrongful death benefits. This category can include:

  • Stepchildren
  • Domestic partners
  • Other family members who can demonstrate financial dependence on the deceased.

Proving dependency can be a complex process, but our experienced attorneys at Stephenson Rife have the expertise to guide you through it.

Financial Dependents

Even individuals not related by blood or marriage may be entitled to wrongful death benefits if they can prove that they were financially dependent on the deceased. This can include individuals such as:

  • Foster children
  • Stepchildren
  • Non-relative individuals who relied on the deceased for financial support.

Proving financial dependence requires thorough documentation and legal expertise, and our team at Stephenson Rife is here to support you every step of the way.

4 Ways Stephenson Rife Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help You With Your Wrongful Death Case

During this difficult time, you need a legal team to guide you through the complexities of a wrongful death case, ensuring your rights are protected and seeking the justice you deserve. At Stephenson Rife, we understand your emotional and legal challenges and are here to help. Here’s how our experienced wrongful death attorneys can assist you:

1. Gathering and Preserving Evidence

To build a strong case, gathering and preserving evidence proving negligence or wrongdoing is essential. Our attorneys have the resources and expertise to:

  • Collect and analyze accident reports
  • Interview witnesses
  • Consult accident reconstruction specialists and medical professionals
  • Preserve physical evidence, including photographs and documents.

Thorough evidence collection is crucial in establishing liability and maximizing the compensation you may be entitled to.

2. Identifying Responsible Parties

Determining who is liable for the wrongful death is often complex. Our attorneys will investigate all potential parties responsible for the incident, which may include individuals, companies, or even government entities. Identifying all liable parties is essential for ensuring you receive fair compensation.

3. Accurate Valuation of Damages

Calculating the full extent of your losses is critical. Our attorneys will work closely with you to:

  • Assess medical expenses related to the incident
  • Calculate lost wages and future earning potential
  • Consider pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship
  • Factor in any other economic and non-economic damages.

Accurately valuing damages ensures that you receive a fair settlement or award.

4. Negotiating With Insurance Companies

Insurance companies try to minimize payouts, even in wrongful death cases. Our experienced attorneys are skilled negotiators who will advocate on your behalf to secure a fair settlement. If negotiations fail to produce a satisfactory outcome, we are ready to take your case to court and fight for your rights.

Contact Stephenson Rife for Legal Guidance Today

If your loved one has been wrongfully killed, you don’t have to go through this alone. At Stephenson Rife, we’re here to help. Contact us today at (317) 680-2501 for a free consultation.

Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike StephensonMike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, and fire, just to name a few. He also works extensively in construction accidents. [ Attorney Bio ]

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