Losing a loved one is never easy, and a death that occurs unexpectedly or due to the negligence or wrongful acts of another party can be even more difficult to process. While nothing can ease the process of grieving a loved one, understanding your rights under the law can ensure the family does not suffer financial harm in addition to their emotional distress.
Wrongful death attorneys specialize in making sure that surviving loved ones get the full financial compensation they are entitled to. They are well-versed in the legal rules and requirements involved in wrongful death matters, and also have a great feel for how local courts handle these cases.
What are damages?
The term “damages” refers to the financial compensation or money you can be awarded as part of a civil lawsuit. The legal system is structured to restore injured parties to the same financial condition they would be in had the accident or loss never taken place.
When an individual loses their life in an accident or criminal act, the wronged parties become the family members who are left behind. The law allows for damages to be awarded to help offset the loss of a loved one.
What are economic damages?
Economic damages are intended to compensate loved ones for the financial losses that stem from a death. In order to qualify for economic damages, the death must fall under the category of wrongful death.
This means that another party caused the loss of life through a wrongful act, default, or neglectful action. Examples of wrongful death include loss of life after a violent crime, medical malpractice, or a negligence-based accident.
If your loved one lost their life due to the actions or choices of another party, your family may be entitled to economic damages. Some examples of these damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of benefits like medical insurance or pension funds
- Loss of expected earnings
- Value of services or goods that the deceased person would have provided
It isn’t always easy to determine the amount of economic damages a family is entitled to. That process involves a deep examination of the deceased person’s life, earning potential, and past as well as projected contributions to the family.
What are non-economic damages?
Non-economic damages are losses that are not clearly assigned a monetary value. While matters like lost pay and medical bills are relatively easy to determine, less tangible losses are difficult to place a value on.
Non-economic damages might include:
- Pain and suffering of surviving loved ones
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of care, protection, and nurturing
Each case is unique and requires a skilled assessment. An individual who is single with few family ties might not leave behind the same non-economic losses as a parent and spouse who played a central role in the lives of multiple family members.
How are damages determined?
It’s never possible to place a dollar value on a human life. No award or settlement can truly replace a lost loved one. Wrongful death attorneys work hard to determine a fair level of compensation in cases where wrongful death occurs. It is an imperfect solution, but one that allows family members to move forward without extreme financial losses in addition to their emotional loss.
The process of determining damages takes time and effort. Research into the deceased person’s earning history, financial standing, and contributions to the family is an essential part of the process. Working closely with loved ones to learn how they will be affected by the loss is also important.
When is the right time to contact a wrongful death attorney?
During the initial stages of grief, it is hard to focus on anything other than your loss. Once those early days pass, however, families should take steps to secure their rights under the law. Reach out to a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible, while the details of the circumstances surrounding the loss are fresh.
Your attorney will review your case and advise you of the best course of action. Even if your situation does not fall under the umbrella of wrongful death, you and your family can move forward knowing you did everything you could to look after your rights.