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Wrongful Death and Pecuniary Damages

Posted on January 26th, 2019 by Oddo & Babat, P.C.

Personal Injury Lawyer

A loved one is killed because of the misconduct or negligence of someone else and even though they may be charged in a criminal court, you want to see if you can pursue legal action to recover damages or compensation you feel is owed to you because of the death.

A criminal conviction cannot award monetary damages. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the family of the victim as a civil action against the party you feel was responsible for your loved one’s death. A wrongful death attorney can review your situation and determine if you may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.

A wrongful death case uses the similar or same evidence presented in the criminal case; however, the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit is lower than the criminal lawsuit.

There does not have to be a criminal conviction to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. A criminal conviction demands that guilt be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In a wrongful death lawsuit, proof using a preponderance of the evidence is all that needs to be accomplished. Here are the components needed to be on the winning end of a wrongful death suit:

  • A person’s death
  • The cause of that death is because of someone else’s negligence or misconduct (they intended to bring harm to another person)
  • Because of the death, surviving family members are suffering from financial injuries
  • There must be a court-appointed representative of the victim’s estate

How the death occurred will determine if there is reason to bring a wrongful death claim:

  • Airplane or car accident
  • Death as a result of a medical malpractice
  • Criminal event
  • Death occurred while attending an activity that was supervised
  • Death as a result of being exposed to hazardous substances or conditions while on the job

What Kinds of Damages are Awarded in a Successful Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Compensation for financial hardships caused as a result of the death of the loved one is the primary purpose for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. These damages are called ‘pecuniary injuries’ and included are:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Lost inheritance

How are These Costs Computed?

Taken under consideration when figuring pecuniary losses are the character, age, and health of the decedent prior to their death, their earning capacity, intelligence, life expectancy, and the financial situation of those asking for the damages. Figuring out the pecuniary losses can be complicated when taking into account the victim’s circumstances when they died. If the victim was the primary wage earner and has dependants, the main focus for damages will be:

  • Actual income lost
  • Parental support lost
  • Wages at the time of death
  • Future potential earnings

In addition to pecuniary damages, you may seek punitive damages, which are awarded in instances where the wrongdoer commited a malicious or action so serious the court assesses damages to send a message hoping to deter others from similar behavior. An experienced attorney, like a personal injury lawyer in Melbourne, FL, will discuss the laws in your state as some states will not permit you to ask for punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from The Law Offices of Arcadier, Biggie, & Woods for their insight into personal injury and wrongful death.

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