When a family member passes, it's a horrific experience, especially knowing you'll never see them again. However, the pain isn't just emotional, it can be financial too. If you know someone who suffered a wrongful death, check out these four FAQs.
What Is Pecuniary Loss?
In a personal injury case, the person injured typically sues for money to pay for their related medical expenses. However, in a wrongful death case, the focus is on financial injury or pecuniary injury for the survivors. This can include the loss of support due to lost income, medical expenses for the deceased and funeral expenses.
However, pecuniary loss can also include money for the lost prospect of inheritance. For example, a parent with a high-paying job and a 401K passes away, and the family sues for wrongful death. If the parent hadn't died, their 401K would have grown, allowing them to leave more money to their children. If the courts agree with this, the family may get additional money to cover for this lost future money.
How Is it Determined?
A lot of work goes into figuring out how much money is fair for both sides. To start determining the amount owed, the courts consider the overall character and health of the deceased. This includes the age, personality, behavior, health and even intelligence. The theory is that all these factors help determine how long the individual would have lived. For example, if it is determined the individual was a daredevil who enjoyed dangerous activities, the courts may decide to pay the family less money because it's likely they would have died soon anyway due to their reckless behavior.
Expert witnesses are also often used to help argue the case. Expert witnesses may argue against someone's dangerous behavior, citing that while it sounds dangerous, it isn't. Another common reason to have an expert witness is when the individual didn't work but provided other services. For example, a stay at home parent may not make money, but they provide cleaning, childcare, cooking, etc. Therefore, the jury may provide money to help cover the cost of these services.
Can the Jury's Decision Be Changed?
A wrongful death case, like a criminal case, has a jury. The jury listens to the testimonies and witnesses and they review all the relevant information, so they can make an informed and fair decision. However, the jury's decision can be adjusted by the court for several reasons. A jury may want to award a large settlement to a family when a parent with a high-paying job passes. However, if that parent often wasted the money on frivolities, the court may decide the family doesn't deserve as much money as the jury awarded.
On the other hand, sometimes the courts increase the jury's decision. If the deceased was unemployed at the time of death, the jury may decide to ignore money for lost income. However, if witnesses come forward that argue the deceased usually had a job, and this was abnormal, the court may decide to increase the settlement.
Are Punitive Damages Allowed?
Punitive damages are often considered in personal injury cases, however, they are only reserved for cases involving malicious wrongdoing. Punitive damages are designed to be a punishment for the defendant and their grossly dangerous actions. In wrongful death cases, punitive damages may also be awarded if the jury or court decide the defendant's behavior was serious and intentional to cause injury or death.
It's important you talk with your attorney regarding punitive damages because the laws vary from state to state. In most states, punitive damages are not allowed in wrongful death case, but there are some that specifically state it is allowed to seek recovery of punitive damages. Other states, however, don't have specific laws.
If a loved one has experienced a wrongful death, you have rights to seek a settlement to help support you through this difficult time and in the future. If you would like more information regarding wrongful death cases, contact an attorney, like one from Hurth Sisk & Blakemore LLP, in your area today.
Hello and welcome, I'm Winfred Paulo. I have a passion for civil court cases of all kinds. Some time back, I ended up in the thick of a civil case after a lengthy dispute with my neighbor. The dispute went on for years and ended badly with an incident that landed us both in court. We had to prove our side of the case in an effort to obtain a positive outcome and recoup our losses. Unfortunately, I lost the case due to a lack of evidence. Since then, I've maintain a strong interest in civil cases and their proceedings. I will share information about civil cases on this site to help others understand these proceedings better. I may talk about legal terms, and expected outcomes for each case type. I hope you visit often to learn more. Thanks for stopping by my website.