While in a personal injury case, damages are primarily awarded based upon the impact the injury may have had on the actual injured party, wrongful death damages are directed to compensate the surviving family members for the impact the loss of the injured party, now deceased, will have on their economic and emotional well being from the loss of support and companionship they will experience as a result of the death of their loved one.
The primary category of damages that may be awarded in wrongful death actions are compensatory damages. Compensatory damages take the form of money that may be awarded by a judge or jury for the purpose of “repaying” 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 submitting medical bills and receipts for the services and products they have previously paid for.
Additionally, compensatory damages often will 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 calculated based upon the age of the victim at the time of their death, the victim’s average life expectancy if not for their untimely death and the victim’s earnings potential multiplied by the number of years the victim was expected to remain in the workforce. Courts can also award compensatory damages for the value of the deceased’s contribution to the actual non economic contribution to the operation of the household, such as housekeeping and for child-care services. Damages may also be awarded to survivors on the basis of grief over the loss of the decedent and the loss of companionship.
Dependant on the circumstances surrounding the death of the decedent, a court also has the ability to award punitive damages to make the survivors whole. If it is proven that the offending party’s intentional, reckless or grossly negligent acts result in the death of deceased, 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 egregious character of the conduct exhibited by the offending party and 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.
Do you have any questions about what type of damages you may be entitled to as a result of a wrongful death claim? Call the Law Office of Martin E Goff at (567) 298-4661 and get answers to all the questions you have. Damages in cases such as wrongful death can sometimes be confusing and must be plead properly in legal filings to maximize what monetary awards you may be entitled to.
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