FAQs About Wrongful Death Cases

What is a wrongful death claim?

When someone dies because of the negligence, carelessness or wrongful acts of others, the deceased obviously is no longer able to bring a claim for justice on his own. Recognizing this injustice, our laws allow the surviving family members to bring a claim on their deceased family member’s behalf both to recover compensation for whatever the deceased suffered before he died, and also for the economic loss (loss of income, loss of the value of household services, loss of parental guidance, etc.) that the family has suffered because of the loved one’s wrongful death.

Who can file a wrongful death case?

A surviving spouse or, if there is none, the children may bring the death claim. If there is neither a surviving spouse nor surviving children, the parents of the decedent may pursue the wrongful death claim, or if there are none of those either, other family members may bring the claim.

What is a “conscious pain and suffering” claim on behalf of a decedent?

In addition to claiming money damages for their own loss of the value of decedent’s household contributions and economic contributions, a decedent's family may recover damages for the conscious pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death. The idea is this: If the decedent had survived, and had not died due to the wrongdoing or negligence of the wrongdoer, then he would have been able to sue for the pain and suffering he endured. So why should the wrongdoer get off the hook simply because his or her victim died instead of surviving his or her careless act? The law recognizes the injustice that would result from such a rule, and therefore allows the surviving family members to sue to recover compensation for what their loved one suffered before he or she died.

What kinds of “economic” damages are recoverable in a wrongful death case?

Normally, the following are recoverable:

  • medical and funeral expenses;
  • the portion of the decedent’s income that he/she would have spent on family members had he/she not been killed;
  • the pension, medical coverage benefits, and other “fringe” benefits lost because of the death;
  • loss of inheritance;
  • loss of parental advice and guidance to children; and
  • loss of household services that the deceased was providing to his/her spouse.
What if I have other questions about wrongful death cases?

Contact Michaels & Smolak today for a free consultation. We will answer your questions and discuss your case.