Some states have laws that place caps on financial awards in wrongful death cases, but the specifics may depend on the cause of death and who is bringing the claim.
You and Your Family May Be Entitled to Compensation for Your Losses
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that in 2017, more than 200,000 people across the United States died from some sort of injury. While inevitable accidents occur, some of these deaths may involve negligence. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 36,120 victims of traffic collisions died from their injuries. When a collision occurs, one driver or multiple drivers are usually liable.
If your loved one died because of the actions or negligence of another person or institution, your family may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for economic damages. Those can cover medical bills related to care that your family member received prior to his or her death and funeral and burial costs.
Economic damages can also compensate you for the loss of income that your relative would have earned and the value of services that he or she would have provided, as well as the loss of an anticipated pension or inheritance. Attorneys frequently consult experts to estimate economic damages so they can request an appropriate amount when filing a lawsuit.
You may also request compensation for non-economic damages to cover the emotional pain that you and other members of your family have endured and the pain that you will continue to suffer because of the loss of your relationship with your loved one. Those types of damages are more difficult to quantify.
State Law May Limit Financial Awards in Some Cases
Some states place caps on awards for non-economic damages in wrongful death cases. The amount of money survivors may be eligible for may depend on several factors.
In some states, laws limit financial awards based on the type of case. For instance, if your loved one died as a result of medical malpractice, your state’s law may only allow your family to receive compensation that is at or below a limit set by statute.
In some cases, more than one person or entity is found liable for a wrongful death. In a medical malpractice case, for example, both a doctor and a hospital may share liability. The law in your state may limit the amount of money your family may receive from each party.
The loss of a loved one can impact numerous family members, including the victim’s spouse and children. Those individuals may all have valid claims, but they may be combined and treated as one claim, even if each person files a separate lawsuit.
If state law places a cap on non-economic awards in wrongful death cases, the cap will apply to the group as a whole. In other words, each individual will not be able to collect the maximum amount from the party that was liable for the wrongful death. Instead, the award will be divided among all the plaintiffs.
Some states have laws that specify how much of a settlement each family member is entitled to. For instance, a spouse may get a percentage of the total settlement, the victim’s children may be entitled to a different percentage, and other relatives may receive a different portion. In other cases, a settlement is distributed according to the state’s laws of intestacy that apply when someone dies without a will.
Be Sure to Act within the Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations require people who have suffered harm to file lawsuits within specific periods of time. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state, and they also sometimes vary based on the cause of the injury or death.
For example, a state may have one statute of limitations that applies to most wrongful death claims, but it may have a different statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases. That statute of limitations may apply if someone dies as a result of a medical error. The same state may have yet another statute of limitations that applies to cases involving injuries or deaths related to defective products.
If a victim’s injury was not apparent right away, that may affect the statute of limitations to file a lawsuit. Some state laws stipulate that the clock associated with the statute of limitations begins to run on the date when an injury was discovered, not the date when it occurred.
Seek Legal Assistance
Ben Crump Law, PLLC has helped grieving families across the United States pursue justice. We have worked to advocate for victims’ families.
Contact a wrongful death lawyer so we can get to work as soon as possible to ensure that you meet the statute of limitations that applies to your case.