February 27, 2024 7:44 AM
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What Damages Can I Claim in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

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By Clair B. Norton
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What damages can I claim in a wrongful death lawsuit

Wrongful death lawsuits compensate families for a variety of intangible losses. These include loss of love, companionship, guidance and support.

Economic damages are typically calculated using hard evidence like bills, receipts and past pay stubs. They are combined with future projected losses. Noneconomic damages are more subjective, and the values are determined by expert economists.

Economic Damages

The sudden loss of a loved one can take a financial toll on the family. In wrongful death cases, compensation can help families offset various financial losses, including funeral costs and medical bills. It can also cover lost income. These are known as economic damages. Wrongful death lawsuits can also include punitive damages, which are designed to punish the defendant.

Economic damages are calculated using hard evidence, such as invoices, bills and pay stubs. These are then combined with the victim’s past and projected future earnings to estimate how much the family will lose due to their loved one’s untimely passing. For example, if the victim was a breadwinner, the value of their lost future earnings will be based on their current age, how long they were expected to live and their average annual earning history.

Family members eligible to receive damages include surviving spouses, children and parents of unmarried children, as well as putative spouses and financial dependents. However, eligibility varies by state law. Check with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney to see if your family may be entitled to compensation.

Non-economic damages, such as loss of consortium and companionship, are more subjective in nature and harder to quantify. They include the value of the deceased person’s love, care, companionship, guidance, moral support and emotional anguish suffered by immediate family members and other relatives. The exact amount of these damages is often left to the jury’s discretion, but they are intended to compensate a family for their loss.

Calculating these damages is complex, and many wrongful death attorneys will hire an expert economist to assist in the calculation process. These experts have specialized knowledge in estimating future losses, and they will consider things like the decedent’s expected life expectancy and their past and projected earnings. They will use their expertise to develop a detailed and accurate estimate of the loss the family has experienced.

In addition to compensating family members for their existing and future losses, wrongful death lawsuits can award punitive damages. These are meant to punish the defendant in order to discourage other individuals from engaging in the type of conduct that leads to wrongful deaths. They are typically only awarded in very limited circumstances.

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