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Holding Responsible Parties Accountable for Wrongful Death

Under Indiana law, wrongful death occurs when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another. A civil wrongful death claim can be brought against the responsible party for loss of life resulting from negligence or an intentional action. Although no amount of money could compensate you for your loss, a wrongful death claim is a way to seek justice for your loved one, hold the responsible party accountable, and seek compensation for your family.

Compensation Available in an Indiana Wrongful Death Claim

Indiana has three separate wrongful death statutes, each of which sets certain requirements or limitations as to compensation:

  • Wrongful Death Act (Indiana Code 34-23-1-1): This is the general act covering most wrongful death claims in Indiana. Under this act, a wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. There is no limit set on compensation generally, except that the damages awarded for burial costs and medical expenses must be reasonable. However, if the claim arose from medical malpractice, damages are limited to $1,250,000. If a wrongful death claim is filed against a government entity, compensation is limited to $700,000.
  • Adult Wrongful Death Act (Indiana Code 34-23-1-2): This act applies when the deceased person was unmarried and had no children or dependents. It sets a limit of $300,000 on noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering of the deceased.
  • Child’s Wrongful Death Act (Indiana Code 34-23-2-1): This act pertains to wrongful death cases in which the deceased person was under the age of 20 (or under the age of 23 in certain types of educational institutions) and was single with no dependents. A viable fetus qualifies as a child under this statute. Except in medical malpractice cases or cases involving government entities, there are no limits on compensation imposed by the Child’s Wrongful Death Act.

Types of Damages Awarded for Indiana Wrongful Death

Types of damages awarded in a wrongful death case will depend on the surrounding circumstances and whether the deceased had a spouse, children, or dependents. Possible damages may include:

  • Final medical expenses of the deceased
  • Reasonable burial and funeral expenses
  • Loss of financial support from the deceased
  • Loss of love, affection, and companionship from the deceased for a surviving spouse
  • Loss of love, care, and parental guidance from the deceased for surviving children
  • Loss of household services of the deceased
  • Lost benefits to survivors because of the wrongful death

Wrongful Death vs. Criminal Charges

A wrongful death claim is a civil action to seek damages from the responsible party for the loss of life. Even in cases of criminal actions involving intentional harm, a wrongful death case does not depend on the outcome of criminal proceedings. For example, a drunk driver who causes a crash that results in wrongful death can be sued by the family members of the deceased, in addition to the criminal charges the driver will face. A criminal conviction is not required to prevail in a wrongful death claim.

Common Causes of Wrongful Death

Wrongful death can result from an intentional action, such as assault and battery or murder. More often, it occurs as a result of negligence – careless, reckless, or negligent actions of the responsible party. Common causes of wrongful death include:

Our Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys at Emerson Divorce and Accident Injury Attorneys, L.L.C. are compassionate people and experienced trial lawyers. We believe your family deserves justice, and we will fight to hold the responsible party accountable. If you have lost a loved one through someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, call us at (317) 969-8000 to find out about your options under the law.