What is a Wrongful Death Action?
A wrongful death action is a claim for damages that stem from the conduct, action or omission by another party, which wrongfully caused the decedent’s injury and his or her premature death. State and federal laws have wrongful death statutes, which give certain persons the right to bring a claim for damages they have sustained as a result of the loss of their loved one. Generally, this would be monetary losses, but it may also be loss of companionship, loss to the estate or additional losses depending on the circumstances of the case.
Family members or dependents of the decedent may bring a claim for wrongful death on their own behalf, or individuals may bring a claim for wrongful death as representatives of the deceased person. If the claimant is able to bring a claim for wrongful death, the responsible party does not have to be an individual. The liable party — the party who would have been liable for the decedent’s injuries had he or she not died from them — may also be the decedent’s employer, a corporation/business or a governmental entity.
Wrongful death is often used by the court as a factor to consider when determining the amount of damages in a personal injury claim. Often the judge or jury as the fact finder will be able to consider the permanent loss of the decedent’s earnings, due to his or her wrongful death. The claimant may be entitled to the amount of wages the decedent would have earned for the remainder of his or her life. This is determined by the salary amount at the time of death or support payments for the remainder of the decedent’s life based on probable life expectancy.
Additionally, in some cases, punitive damages may be available in a wrongful-death action. These damages will give the claimant additional money to punish the responsible party; punitive damages are not intended to compensate the claimant for his or her loss.