COMPENSATION FOR RECKLESS OR NEGLIGENT ACTIONS
Each state has a set of laws governing wrongful death claims. Indiana is no exception and has enacted a series of statutes to help ensure that the family members of accident victims who lost their lives as a result of someone else’s negligent or reckless conduct are compensated for their monetary losses.
Although collecting damages can never replace the loss of a loved one, it can go a long way towards helping a family pay off medical debt and focus on grieving, while they begin the long process of recovery. Unfortunately, the procedural rules that come with filing a wrongful death claim in Indiana are complex, so if you recently lost a loved one in an accident for which he or she was not at fault, it is critical to contact a wrongful death attorney in Fort Wayne who can explain your legal rights and obligations.
WHAT QUALIFIES AS WRONGFUL DEATH?
In Indiana, a wrongful death is one that is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another person. To determine whether a deceased victim’s family members have standing to file a claim based on a wrongful death, it is helpful to imagine the case as though it were a standard personal injury case. Essentially, if the deceased victim could have filed a claim if he or she had survived, then that individual’s surviving relatives have standing to file a wrongful death claim on that person’s behalf. At this point in the proceedings, the deceased’s loved ones would step in and attempt to establish that another person or entity’s negligence was the cause of the injured party’s death and to seek damages for their monetary losses.
Wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits, which means that liability is expressed only in terms of monetary damages, although state prosecutors are permitted to file criminal charges against the defendant in a wrongful death suit based on the same events. However, the outcome of the criminal trial doesn’t have a bearing on the success or failure of a civil wrongful death claim.
WHO CAN FILE A WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Just because a person is a relative of a deceased victim does not mean that he or she automatically has standing to file a claim on the loved one’s behalf. This is because Indiana law only permits the personal representative of a deceased person’s estate to file this type of claim in court. Fortunately, if a judge orders a defendant to pay damages, those funds can be awarded to the deceased’s spouse, children, or dependents. In the event that more than one party is eligible to receive wrongful death damages, the court will step in and decide how the total will be divided.
The filing rules for cases involving the death of a child are a bit different, as these types of claims can only be filed by one or both of the deceased minor’s parents. If the parents are divorced, then the claim can only be filed by the parent who had legal custody of the child prior to his or her death.
IMPORTANT DEADLINES IN WRONGFUL DEATH CASES
Indiana law requires that wrongful death claims be filed within two years of the date that the victim passed away. If a victim’s family members fail to file a claim within this time frame, the court will almost always refuse to hear the case, meaning that the surviving relatives will miss out on the opportunity to hold the at-fault party accountable for their loved one’s death. This is true even if a criminal case is proceeding at the same time as the civil case.
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WRONGFUL DEATH DAMAGES
Calculating damages for a wrongful death claim is slightly different than the process used in a standard personal injury case. For instance, a deceased person’s estate, spouse, or children are only permitted to recover damages to cover the following losses:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Lost wages and any benefits that the deceased would have earned if he or she had survived;
- Legal fees associated with filing the wrongful death suit;
- The costs associated with administering the deceased’s estate; and
- Medical and hospital expenses related to the deceased’s final illness or injury.
All of these damages must be paid directly to the estate, which is then responsible for using the award to pay off outstanding bills. Damages for lost wages are then divided among the deceased’s surviving spouse and children.
Unlike other states, Indiana does not allow surviving family members to collect damages compensating them for the grief they suffered as a result of their relative’s death. However, if the deceased person is a minor, his or her parents are allowed to recover additional damages for the loss of the child’s love, companionship, and service and also have the option of seeking damages for the costs associated with obtaining counseling. Finally, when a person passes away and leaves behind no surviving spouse, children, or dependents, his or her estate can recover no more than $300,000 in damages. There isn’t a similar damages cap in cases where the deceased is survived by a spouse or children, although courts are only permitted to make awards that are considered “reasonable” based on the specific facts of the case.
CALL DELVENTHAL LAW OFFICE FOR LEGAL ADVICE
The surviving family members of a person who tragically lost his or her life unexpectedly as a result of someone else’s negligence are usually not in any condition to think about the legal ramifications of the accident. This is where a legal representative can prove invaluable to a grieving family whose relative was taken from them too soon, so if you recently lost a loved one in an accident or as a result of someone else’s negligence, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the experienced and compassionate Fort Wayne wrongful death attorneys at Delventhal Law Office LLC. You can reach a member of our legal team by calling (260) 238-8608 or by sending us a brief online message. And remember, initial consultations are conducted free of charge.
AREAS WE PRACTICE
At the Delventhal Law office, our Fort Wayne personal injury attorneys are committed to fighting for the rights and interests of accident victims. If you or a family member was injured because of the carelessness or recklessness of another party, we can help. Our Indiana personal injury lawyers handle a wide array of legal cases, including:
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