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How are Wrongful Death Claims Different Than Other Personal Injury Claims?

— March 1, 2022

A wrongful death claim is filed for the loss of the deceased individual. In this case, a family member or spouse usually gets compensated for the losses.

If you have ever been in an accident or suffered from a serious medical condition, the chances are high that you have made a personal injury claim. But what if your spouse or a loved one dies because of an accident? Is a wrongful death claim the same as a personal injury claim? 

A wrongful death claim is filed if the victim dies in an accident. If the victim survives, then they file a personal injury claim. While the claims are partially overlapping in some aspects, there are several notable differences, including who files the claim and who receives the compensation.

The Person Filing the Lawsuit

In a personal injury claim, the injured party is filing the lawsuit. However, in a wrongful death claim, a personal representative must file on behalf of the deceased. Usually, this is a family member or spouse. 

If you have recently lost a loved one, consider contacting a Lake Charles wrongful death lawyer to help with the filing process. Usually, the attorney will file in the county or city where the accident occurred. 

If the loved one died in a workplace accident the legal team will follow through with all the necessary paperwork to ensure that the loved one’s body receives a proper burial and pay the estate’s funeral expenses. These cases can be a bit more complicated due to workers’ compensation.

Wrongful Death Damages 

In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiffs tend to seek two things: justice and damages. Anything that would have happened had your loved one lived should be compensated. Plaintiffs can access different types of damages

  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages
  • Statutory damages

For example, if a widower’s wife has died in an accident and he doesn’t have any money to support himself or his children, then a wrongful death claim can help compensate for these losses as well.

Compensatory Damages

The compensatory damages help pay the family for what was lost. These may include funeral expenses, past and future lost wages, loss of companionship, and other incidental costs.

Sad woman in shower; image by Meghan Hessler, via
Sad woman in shower; image by Meghan Hessler, via

If the deceased did not have life insurance or enough savings to cover their funeral expenses, a wrongful death claim would help cover these costs.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for the wrong they have committed. This also aims to be a deterrent for others committing similar acts. 

These damages are awarded only in severe cases and are thus less frequent than compensatory damages. Consult your lawyer to learn if you are eligible for punitive damages.

Statutory Damages

Statutory damages are a set amount of money awarded to the victim’s family. The amount typically depends on who filed the wrongful death claim. In this case, the average salary of the deceased at the time of their death determines the award.

Receiving a Settlement Offer

Sometimes both parties agree to a settlement. It is not recommended to accept the very first offer you receive from the opposing team, as they tend to offer a lower amount than it would be fair. Let your lawyer negotiate on your behalf. They can ensure that the amount you receive is just.

When a settlement is reached in a wrongful death claim, the compensation is going to be a lump sum payment. 

Claims Against Various Parties Involved in the Accident

A wrongful death claim may be against several different parties responsible for the death. For example, your child was killed by the negligent operation of a school bus. In this case, you could argue that the driver of the bus should be held accountable for your child’s death as well as the school’s administration.

Final Thoughts

A wrongful death claim is different than a personal injury claim in many ways. In a personal injury claim, the victim is filing for compensation for medical bills and other expenses incurred after the incident. 

On the other hand, a wrongful death claim is filed for the loss of the deceased individual. In this case, a family member or spouse usually gets compensated for the losses. A lawyer will guide them through the process and help them get the compensation they need and deserve.

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