What the court considers in a wrongful death claim

Someone close to you, perhaps your parent or child, died as a result of someone’s negligence. Among other steps, you may be wondering about the viability of filing a wrongful death claim. The first thing to know is that time is an issue. For example, the statute of limitations to file is two years.

Other common concerns may be whether you have the standing to file and what factors the court will consider in such a case. In general, you can file if you are a spouse, dependent, child or beneficiary. Read on to find out more about what the court looks at.

What the person would have earned

A wrongful death can mean that you have lost potential income from your spouse or parent. So, lost earning capacity is something the court may consider. Similarly, if the deceased person would have provided services, support, advice, comfort and the like, that can factor in.

Lost or reduced inheritance

It is also possible to make a case based on what you would have inherited had that person lived a normal life span. For example, if your spouse died and had at least 20 years of work left in front of him or her and earned $1 million a year, a lot of that money might have gone to you.

Your suffering

Death takes a huge toll, and you may be experiencing the greatest suffering of your life. Compensation for that suffering is something a judge often wants to keep in mind.

Each case is unique, and it may be that you can seek further compensation on grounds such as exemplary damages (also known as punitive damages). Another thing to keep in mind is that a judge may decide to give more damages to a certain family member than to another; a spouse may benefit most, for example.

An attorney can analyze your case and give you an idea of what to expect. You may want to file by yourself or with others.