Wrongful Death: Definition and Introduction to Basics for Relatives of the Victim

If someone dies on account of someone else’s mistake, misconduct, act(s) of violence, or negligence on any one or more accounts, it can be defined as an incident of wrongful death. The responsible party can be an individual or a private/public organization, and their actions can be directly or indirectly held responsible for the wrongful death. Let’s get to know the introductory aspects of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit next.

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A Wrongful Death Lawsuit is Not a Murder Trial

Wrongful death proceedings are civil lawsuits, unlike criminal trials related to murder and manslaughter. Depending on what happened that led to the person’s demise, there could very well be ongoing criminal trials against the same party. However, the civil trial and the criminal trial will be conducted in accordance with two completely separate sets of rules, in two separate courts. If the relatives(s) wish to pursue a criminal trial against the offender, they will have to file the two cases separately.

There are Well Defined, Recoverable Sections to Base the Compensation Claim

The exact reclaimable sections in a wrongful death lawsuit may vary from state to state, but most allow relatives of the victim to claim pecuniary compensations for:

  • Emergency treatment bills, and all other medical expenses incurred before death.
  • Funeral/burial expenses.
  • Present and future financial losses on account of the victim’s inability to provide anymore.
  • The deceased’s income at the time of their death, and/or their potential earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering inflicted upon the victim and/or its survivors.

Calculating Compensations for Pain and Suffering: Per Diem and Multiplier Rules

There are two primary methods used to calculate compensation amounts related to pain and suffering:

  1. Applying Multipliers on Special Damages
  2. Applying the Per Diem Method

Special Damage Multipliers

Special Damage refers to all pecuniary expenses incurred by the suing party on account of the wrongful death, both before and after the incident. Check the previous section for more details on what they are. The total claimed compensation amount for special damages is then multiplied by a number between 1.5 and 5. This multiplier is determined based on several factors such as:

  • The intent behind the action.
  • Whether the action(s) were a direct or indirect cause of death.
  • The severity of pain and suffering endured by the victim if they survived for a while before succumbing to their injuries.
  • Availability of photographic and medical evidence to verify the claims of pain and suffering.

The Per Diem Method

The Per Diem Method, aka the Per Day Method, calculates pain and suffering based on factors like:

  • The number of days for which the victim lived in pain, before their demise.
  • The financial damages and loss of wages suffered by the victim directly, and the family indirectly, until the death of the former.

The final calculations are made by multiplying the number of days, with the losses incurred per day.

It is never easy to put a price on anyone’s life and emotional losses. Even then, it helps to take action and receive the compensations necessary for ensuring that lives of the victim’s loved ones can continue as best as possible.