What You May Recover in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

After an unexpected death caused by negligence, you can find justice by holding the at-fault party accountableMost people have no idea what you are going through. As you mourn the untimely passing of your loved one who died in an accident, your friends and coworkers may give you space, but the bill collectors will not. Hospitals that provided care and others who performed end-of-life services will begin to call very shortly after your loved one’s passing, and many grieving family members often pay them directly without getting the compensation they deserve.

How to Get the Compensation Your Family Deserves

Even before you consider a wrongful death lawsuit, you should:

  • Send the deceased’s auto insurance company a copy of the death certificate and complete the insurer’s death benefit claims form right away, if your loved one died in a car crash. Kentucky no-fault auto insurance laws are required to pay for at least funeral and burial expenses, but there is a limit on the amount of coverage allowed.
     
  • Find all insurance policies. Survivors may make multiple claims if the decedent had more than one policy.
     
  • Do your research. Hospital bills, loss of income and other expenses may be included in death benefit claims, so be sure to gather the deceased’s medical records, tax information, and police reports for proof of your expenses.
     
  • Look into other benefits. Social Security and workers’ compensation may provide additional benefits.

Additionally, it is important to consider your legal damages.

Compensation From Wrongful Death Lawsuits and Survival Actions

Two types of lawsuits may be possible if your loved one has died due to the negligence of someone else. These lawsuits include wrongful death actions and survival actions. Survival actions are brought on behalf of the deceased for damages incurred from the time of the accident to the time of death. A wrongful death claim is for damages that occurred after death.

Some of the benefits of filing a wrongful death or survival action case include:

Medical Expenses

If your loved one did not die right away, then he may have incurred medical expenses related to the accident prior to his death. Those medical expenses may have included—but might not have been limited to—ambulance costs, emergency surgery, hospital bills, doctor’s bills, and pharmacy bills. If your loved one lived for some time after the accident before eventually succumbing to his injuries, then the medical expenses may have also included things such as physical therapy, other rehabilitation services, or nursing home costs.

Lost Income

You may be able to recover for the loss of your loved one’s ability to earn an income from the date of his accident injuries until his reasonably anticipated retirement date. It may be challenging to predict future income with reasonable certainty—especially if your loved one was young—however, there are specific things that should be considered when calculating lost income in Kentucky. Those things include:

  • Age.
  • Occupation.
  • Health prior to the accident.
  • Historical earnings.
  • Opportunity for advancement in his field.

It is not necessary that your loved one had been working just prior to his death in order to recover damages for future lost income.

Funeral Costs

Typically, these are among the easiest damages to establish, because you will be provided with a bill for funeral services. However, it is important to remember to include all bills related to the funeral, memorial service, and cemetery. This could include for example, fees to a chaplain, payment for a burial plot, expense for a headstone, payment for preparing the body for burial, payment for cremation, and other costs.

Pain and Suffering

Technically, the pain and suffering of surviving family members is considered in a survival action rather than a wrongful death lawsuit. However, survival actions and wrongful death cases are often combined. Thus, it is important to consider the non-economic damages, or suffering, that you and other loved ones have incurred because of the fatal accident.

Household Services

Prior to your loved one’s death, you may have joked about what he did (or did not do) with regard to housework, home maintenance, cooking, child care, etc. However, now that your loved one is gone, you are noticing the details of all the work he did around the house and for the family…and you now see that it had real value. Someone else must now do the things that your loved one used to do, and that requires hiring someone to do it, having less free time because you are doing it yourself, or both, and it may continue to cost you time and money in the future. Thus, you may be able to recover for past, current, and future loss of household services.

Financial and legal experts can help you identify a specific amount that you might be able to recover for the damages described above. Additionally, other damages, such as punitive damages, may also be possible based on the unique circumstances of your loved one’s death.

Once you identify the damages that you may be able to recover then you can decide whether filing a wrongful death lawsuit and a survival action is right for you and your family.

Who Receives Compensation From a Wrongful Death Case?

According to the Kentucky statutes, only those surviving relatives listed can receive compensation from damages claimed in a Kentucky wrongful death claim. The majority of the benefits are normally distributed half to the surviving spouse and half to the deceased’s surviving children.

If there are no children, then all of the benefits are given to the spouse, and if there is no surviving spouse the benefits are divided equally among the children. If the deceased had no spouse or children then the beneficiaries would be the deceased’s parents, or when no parents are present, the deceased’s siblings.

If none of the deceased’s immediate family is available to be determined as a beneficiary then the estate and damages paid through a wrongful death lawsuit are turned over to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. If there is a will present, there may be unique stipulations as to how the assets of the estate are to be handled, such as payment to other non-familial parties or donations to charitable organizations.

Of course, wrongful death cases aren’t just about financial compensation. They are also about emotional closure and justice.

Consult an Attorney Before Taking Action

The only way you can find out what you are legally owed is to speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. A lawyer can explain your rights and possible recovery to you and help your family take the necessary steps toward a legal recovery. Please contact us today via this website to set up your free, no-obligation consultation.