What Damages Are Recoverable In A Wrongful Death Suit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are filed by family members when they believe a loved one’s death could have been prevented had someone else behaved differently. This was highlighted in a recent news story where the spouse of a Massachusetts man sued his employer for the loss of her husband. While we may never know the outcome of this particular case, it highlights the types of damages which may be recovered in a wrongful death suit.
Wrongful death is defined as “the death of a human being as the result of a wrongful act of another person“. A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed even when the responsible party is not held criminally liable for the death.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Massachusetts?
While some states allow a family member to file a lawsuit claiming wrongful death, in Massachusetts, the law states only the executor or the personal representative of the estate of the decedent is allowed to file such a suit. In many cases, a spouse or child of the decedent serves as the executor of the estate in which case they could file the lawsuit.
What Factors Play a Role in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settlements?
There are numerous factors which will help determine the amount of settlement one may ask for in wrongful death cases. Some of these include:
- Victim’s age and overall health at the time of injury which resulted in death
- Income at the time of death and future earnings capacity
- Benefits which may be lost including health insurance and pensions
- Age of dependents of decedent
- Medical bills incurred prior to death
- Suffering of victim prior to death
These factors will have to be reviewed carefully before filing a wrongful death lawsuit. An attorney who has experience handling these complicated cases can assess the specifics of the case and discuss possible settlement amounts with the family.
Economic Damages Recoverable in Wrongful Death Cases
Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 229 § 2 wrongful death is clearly defined. Money will never make up for the loss of a loved one. However, a family should not have to face financial ruin because of the action, or inaction, of another party which resulted in losing a loved one.
Some of the economic damages which may be sought in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses related to injuries which resulted in a death
- Future earnings and benefits which the decedent could have earned had they survived
- Funeral and burial costs
- Other out of pocket expenses incurred prior to the death which were related to the injuries sustained
- Dollar value of services a victim would have provided to the household had they survived
- Survivors’ loss of inheritance
There may be other economic damages which may be recovered depending on various factors specific to a case. A personal injury attorney who understands wrongful death statutes can explain these losses to the survivors.
Non-Economic Damages Recoverable in Wrongful Death Cases
Non-economic damages are defined as those damages which cannot be demonstrated easily. Medical bills show medical expense losses, earnings and benefits statements can show losses from wages, and receipts can prove financial costs of funeral and burial. However, when discussing non-economic losses, these include items like:
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of counsel provided by loved one
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Punitive damages in the event the act causing the death was considered malicious, willful, or reckless
Families should bear in mind there are restrictions on who may file a wrongful death lawsuit as well as time frames which define how long they have to make a decision to file a lawsuit.
Criminal Cases Versus Civil Cases
One of the issues that often leaves people confused is whether they must wait for a criminal case to be decided before filing a wrongful death case. The answer to this is no. Wrongful death lawsuits are civil cases and do not require the same level of proof as a criminal case. Someone may be criminally responsible for a death but there may be insufficient proof to bring criminal charges.
If someone is found criminally liable, the punishment may include probation or jail time. If someone is found civilly liable, they will face a financial penalty. The level of proof in the two cases is also significantly different. In a criminal case, the prosecutor must show by a preponderance of evidence that the defendant is guilty. In a wrongful death lawsuit, which is a civil matter, the defendant must be shown to have likely been responsible for the death of the victim.
Why You Need an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unintentional injuries and homicide are in the top five causes of death for those under the age of 45. It is always important to remember when reading statistics and charts that each death, in this case, more than 58,000 a year, represents a person who leaves a family behind. Hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer will not help a family recover emotionally from the loss of a loved one. However, a personal injury lawyer can help a family recover financially. No family should ever have to face financial ruin because their loved one lost their life due to another party’s negligence or deliberate action.
A personal injury lawyer can help a family hold the responsible parties accountable for their action or lack of action. The compensation a family receives in a wrongful death case can prevent future financial ruin and help them move forward. A family should not have to deal with an uncertain economic future because their loved one’s life ended unexpectedly.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer Immediately
Families who lose a loved one are dealing with a range of emotions and concerns. While many believe that filing a wrongful death claim is akin to demanding payment for someone’s death, this is not the case. A wrongful death lawsuit provides a family financial peace of mind and holds the responsible parties financially accountable for their wrongdoing. A wrongful death attorney can provide a family who has suffered an unimaginable loss with information regarding their rights and legal options and help them get financial damages by filing a wrongful death suit. Call Riccio Law at 508-226-4500 to schedule a free consultation.