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Holding Responsible Parties Accountable for Wrongful Death

If you have lost a loved one, no amount of money can adequately compensate you for the pain. But the law can help you hold those at fault accountable for their actions. 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 that occurred after July 1, 2019, total damages are limited to $1,650,000. 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 minor children or dependents. For example, a claim for the wrongful death of an unmarried adult without children would be brought under this act. A claim for the wrongful death of an unmarried parent whose children are adults would also be brought under this act. 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 if the child was a college student) and was single with no dependents. 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 to make up for the loss of love and affection suffered by the survivors. 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 generally occurs as a result of negligence – careless, reckless, or negligent actions of the responsible party. Common causes of wrongful death include:

What is Considered a Wrongful Death in Indiana?

In Indiana, a rongful death occurs when a person's death is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, or default of another party. This could include car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, or intentional acts.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?

Indiana law permits the personal representative of the deceased person's estate to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of certain surviving family members, including spouses, children, and in some cases, other dependents.

What Damages Can be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?

Damages in an Indiana wrongful death lawsuit may include medical and funeral expenses, loss of the deceased person's earnings and benefits, loss of companionship, and other losses suffered by the survivors as a result of the death.

Is there a Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?

Yes, in Indiana, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is generally two years from the date of the deceased person's death. It's important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure compliance with this deadline.

Can Punitive Damages be Awarded in Indiana Wrongful Death Cases?

Yes, Indiana law allows for punitive damages to be awarded in wrongful death cases if the defendant's actions were found to be grossly negligent, reckless, or intentional.

Can Multiple Parties be Held Liable in an Indiana Wrongful Death Case?

Yes, multiple parties may be held liable in an Indiana wrongful death case if their actions contributed to the death of the individual. This could include individuals, companies, or other entities.

What is the Role of Insurance Companies in Indiana Wrongful Death Claims?

Insurance companies may be involved in wrongful death claims if the responsible party has liability insurance coverage. They may negotiate settlements or defend the insured party in litigation.

Do I Need an Attorney to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?

While it's not legally required to have an attorney, it's highly recommended to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can navigate the legal complexities of the claim and help maximize your recovery.

How Long Does it Take to Resolve a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?

The time it takes to resolve a wrongful death claim in Indiana varies depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, and court schedules. Some cases may settle relatively quickly, while others may take longer, including those that go to trial.

What if the Deceased had a Pre-Existing condition? Can I Still File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?

Yes, you can still file a wrongful death claim in Indiana even if the deceased had a pre-existing condition. However, the compensation awarded may be adjusted to account for the pre-existing condition's contribution to the death. It's essential to discuss the specifics of the case with your attorney.

Our Indianapolis personal injury 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.

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