Damages in Wrongful Death Cases

When a person is killed as a result of the negligent, reckless or unlawful actions of another person or entity, the victim’s surviving relatives can file a wrongful death civil lawsuit seeking financial damages from responsible party. Wrongful death damages may seek to compensate the family for medical bills, lost wages and loss of companionship (compensatory damages) or awarded in an effort to punish the offending party for their negligent or intentional acts (punitive damages).

Compensatory Damages

Compensatory damages are money awarded by a judge or jury and intended to repay a victim’s family for the costs of medical care, funeral and burial and other expenses they had to incur as the direct result of the wrongful death. Most often, families of deceased parties prove their compensatory damages in court by submitted receipts for the services and products they paid for.

Compensatory damages may also be awarded to compensate a deceased party’s relatives for work income the victim would have earned if they had lived. Lost income can be projected out for decades depending on the age of the victim at the time of their death. Courts have also awarded compensatory damages for the worth of an individual's housekeeping and for child-care services. Also, a damages award might be justified on the basis of grief and loss of companionship.

Punitive Damages

When a party’s intentional, reckless or grossly negligent acts result in the death of another party, a jury or judge may impose punitive damages that are meant to punish the offending party and discourage similar acts in the future. Punitive damages are imposed in addition to compensatory damages, which are intended to repay the victim’s family for medical bills, burial costs and other out-of-pocket expenses.

For the most part, juries are free to impose whatever amount of punitive damages they feel are appropriate and may base their decision on the net worth of the defendant, among other factors. However, judges have the power to review the jury award and may find it is excessive, reduce the amount of the award or set it aside altogether.

Limits on Damages

Some states place limits on the amount of money in compensatory or punitive damages a jury can award to a victim’s family in a wrongful death action. International treaties limit the amount that can be recovered by relatives of people killed on airlines traveling between nations and an employee’s right to receive damages for workplace injuries may be limited by the employer’s workers' compensation insurance. In such cases, while the amount the worker can receive may be limited, receiving some compensation for work-related injuries is guaranteed.

Consult a Wrongful Death Attorney

The sudden and unexpected death of a love one is a devastating event that can never be erased with monetary compensation. However, damages paid by the responsible party can help lessen or eliminate the financial strain of the death and see that the deceased person’s family and loved ones are cared for in their absence.

To find out what type of damages are commonly awarded in wrongful death lawsuits or to discuss your particular case with a knowledgeable, aggressive wrongful death attorney, contact a LawyerShop attorney today.

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Keyword Tags: wrongful death, personal injury

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