Families always struggle when someone dies, but unexpected, sudden deaths can be particularly challenging. A parent in the prime of their career with young children at home who dies after a crash caused by a drunk driver or in a household accident caused by a defective power tool could leave surviving loved ones with a huge obstacle to overcome.
Between the loss of income and the difficulties of grieving, it will likely be years before the family truly overcomes the consequences of the recent death. Wrongful death lawsuits give those impacted by the misconduct or negligence of others an opportunity to seek justice and financial compensation in the civil courts.
Understanding the basic rules for such claims can help your family decide if filing a claim makes sense for your situation.
The representative of the estate must bring the claim
In Indiana, it is not the surviving family members who file a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, that responsibility falls to the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
They take action on behalf of the surviving family members in civil court and then have the responsibility to distribute any award granted by the court to the immediate family members and beneficiaries of the deceased individual.
There are limits to what your family can claim
Indiana only allows people to request certain kinds of compensation. You can ask for the future wages your loved one would have earned, including the financial value of a lifetime of their benefits. Medical, funeral and burial costs contribute to what you claim, as can the costs of therapy for those struggling with grief. Families can also claim the loss of support that resulted from the death.
There is a limited window to file a claim
Like all civil suits in Indiana, wrongful death claims are subject to a strict statute of limitations. In almost all cases, there will only be two years from the date of your loved one’s death to initiate civil proceedings. Rather than waiting until that deadline is near, it is usually better to initiate the legal process well before the deadline approaches.
Learning more about how wrongful death claims work can help your family explore this sometimes powerful means of securing justice when you lose someone you love.