There are three types of damages that are potentially available in a wrongful death case: economic, non-economic and punitive damages. As a general rule, damages in a wrongful death case are limited to immediate family members such as parents, children and spouses.
Economic damages are the financial losses that are relatively easy to prove, such as the immediate costs associated with a loved one’s death. This may include medical bills, legal costs and funeral expenses. These damages also typically include the income that has been lost as a result of the death, which is calculated by looking at the income of the person at the time of his or her death and multiplying it by the average years that a person in that profession would work, along with other factors. Economic damages often also cover basic living expenses such as mortgage payments and cash to pay bills.
Non-economic damages are much harder to prove, yet often represent the largest part of a recovery in wrongful death cases. These damages are for those intangible losses associated with a loved one’s death, such as pain and suffering, grief, loss of companionship, mental anguish and loss of consortium. Because these items do not have a set monetary value, we can use our experience and knowledge to help set an appropriate number for the enormous loss that you have experienced.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded in wrongful death cases, as they are meant to punish the person who caused the death and to deter others from similar conduct in the future. These damages are usually only awarded if the person’s conduct was more than negligent or careless, such as intentional or grossly reckless conduct.