Every state has a civil “wrongful death statute,” or set of statutes, that establishes the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions.
Actions for personal injury, conscious pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent’s death are also brought by the personal representative. The damage awards from these actions belong to the estate and may pass to different parties as directed by the decedent’s will.
Compensation in Wrongful Death Cases
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to allow compensation for the family or representatives of the estate for their financial loss. You may be able to recover damages for:
- Lost wages and benefits
- The value of household services
- Loss of companionship, comfort, and care for children of the deceased
The attorneys at Bertram Law Group PLLC will explore every avenue of recovery and fully advocate for you and your family so that you can begin the healing process and try to balance this terrible loss.
Difference Between a Civil Case and a Criminal Case Against Someone Who Caused a Death
A criminal case can only be brought by the government or state. On the other hand, civil cases are brought in the name of individuals, not in the name of the state.
In a criminal case, the prosecutor makes a case against the person accused of a crime, seeking prison time or another punishment. A civil case can be filed by anyone whose private rights or civil rights have allegedly been violated by another party. When a private party files a civil lawsuit for wrongful death, the party is seeking monetary damages, compensation for the loss suffered.
A civil trial for wrongful death, therefore, is very different from a criminal trial for murder or manslaughter. Civil lawsuits for wrongful death are tried for money damages to balance the harms, not to put the defendant in prison.
The burden of proof in criminal and civil cases is also different. The prosecutor in a criminal case must meet a higher standard of proof than in a civil case. In criminal cases, the standard is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” In civil cases, the standard of proof is “by a preponderance of the evidence,” which essentially means “more likely than not,” or put another way, proof by 51% or more.
What Is a Survival Law or Survival Statute?
A survival statute allows the estate of an injured person to be compensated for that individual’s losses. Because the injured party has passed away, the survivors or beneficiaries pursue the lawsuit on the behalf of the deceased or the estate of the deceased.
Can You Sue for the Pain and Suffering of the Decedent in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
While a wrongful death award compensates the survivor, a pain and suffering award normally compensates the person who experienced the pain and suffering. Some states allow pain and suffering to be included in a wrongful death lawsuit; others do not. The pain and suffering must have been due to the injuries that eventually caused death, and the person who died must have been conscious enough to actually experience the pain and suffering.
Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Action Based on the Death of a Child or an Elderly Person?
Yes. The calculation of damages, however, may be different and more limited for children and elderly patients who are no longer working.