Wrongful death lawsuits allow the families of someone who was killed by the negligence or other actionable conduct of someone else to receive financial compensation for their loss. Every state has its own unique wrongful death laws, so it is very important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to determine if and how a wrongful death lawsuit may be pursued.
The Personal Representative
The Personal Representative is the legal name given to the person who actually files and pursues the wrongful death claim with the assistance of an attorney. Often, this person is the next of kind—for instance, the surviving wife may serve as the personal representative in an action concerning her husband’s wrongful death. That isn’t always the case, though, and sometimes it makes sense to have a different family member or an independent professional serve as the Personal Representative. Selecting and going through the process of securing the appointment of the personal representative is one of the first tasks an experienced and knowledgeable law firm undertakes when pursuing a wrongful death case.
The Potential Beneficiaries
The potential beneficiaries of a recovery for the wrongful death typically include the surviving spouse, minor children, and sometimes may include the parents, extended family, and others who shared a close personal relationship with the decedent.
Determining the total potential beneficiaries requires a precise legal analysis of the controlling statutes and case law. This analysis will hinge on a variety of factors, including the age and marital status of the decedent, as well as the age of the survivors. And it’s important to remember that certain common terms may have very different meanings in the wrongful death context. For example, the Florida Wrongful Death Act defines “minor children” as children under the age of 25, not 18 or 21.
While every state varies with respect to what damages may be pursued, typical possibilities include:
Lost Net Accumulations
This award is designed to help offset the amount of money the decedent would have earned throughout his or her lifetime had he or she not been killed. Courts will often award this amount on a lump sum basis after calculating and confirming the total-amount to its present day value.
Lost Support and Services
This category of damages helps to offset the day-to-day assistance and help that the decedent had provided to his or her loved ones while he or she was alive. Such support and services could include financial assistance (like helping to pay the bills), as well as physical services (like helping with household chores).
Loss of consortium
This type of damages seeks to help compensate a spouse for the loss of affection, love, and services the surviving spouse is forced to endure.
This kind of damages attempts to compensate the survivors for the emotional pain they have suffered following the decedent’s death.
Loss of Parent Guidance
Many states allow the surviving children to require damages for the loss of a deceased parent’s guidance.