In so many ways it seems almost all death is “wrongful,” at least to those who have lost one who is important to them. As the term is used in Indiana and in most other states as well, there must be neglect or intentional action for the laws of the state to provide damages in wrongful death claims.
All wrongful death claims in Indiana are governed by our Wrongful Death Statutes. Here is an overview, so read carefully because it can be confusing.
Overview of Wrongful Death Statutes in Indiana
Adult deaths by the negligent or other wrongful act of another. They can only receive damages through a personal representative brought in a court with jurisdiction over such matters. That means opening a probate proceeding for that purpose.
Adults who die without dependents by the wrongful act or omission of another. They may not, through their personal representative, have damages paid beyond medical bills, funeral expenses, attorney fees and other costs of the last illness or death. So, if a person dies wrongfully, say in a car wreck, but he or she died without a spouse, dependent children or dependent adult (like maybe a disabled sibling he or she was supporting), all that can be collected from the party sued will be those expenses. However, if such a person is survived by a parent, then the parent(s) may recover up to $300,000 for the loss of love and affection of the adult child.
The person that died was survived by a spouse, children or other dependents, whether adult or minor.
The personal representative may bring an action for such damages as can be proven to the Court. So, lost income expected in the future. Also, any damages that the deceased person would have been able to collect from the person responsible had he or she instead survived. That would include pain and suffering resulting from the events if the person lingered for a period of time before dying.
If the victim is an unmarried child without dependents, and the child is under 20, or under 23 and enrolled in
- A postsecondary educational institution
- A career and technical education school
- A program that is not a postsecondary educational program
In this scenario, the parents may directly bring an action for wrongful death of the minor without a probate estate for the following reasons:
- Loss of the child’s services
- Loss of love and companionship
- Expenses of hospitalization
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Psychiatric and psychological counseling of the surviving parents and minor siblings
- Uninsured debts of the child
- Costs of administration of the child’s estate
- Attorney fees
These issues – adult, child, married, single, dependents, school enrollment – all move the case around to different parts of the wrongful death statutes that may limit the recoveries.
Often, it can take an experienced lawyer to figure out exactly where a case fits within this statute. Fault of the wrongdoer may also be compared to the comparative fault of the decedent and can limit or deny recovery. All this must be overlaid with any applicable insurance coverages and policy limits before the value of the case can be estimated.
In rare cases, there are no limits to what can be recovered:
- If the decedent falls within one of the statutes that do not have a cap on the recovery amount
- If there is either high insurance coverage limits or a large corporate defendant
- The decedent shares no fault in the negligence
Again, such cases are rare. So, maximizing recovery requires competent and experienced legal help.
As you can see, the rules governing what may be recovered for wrongful death claims are complicated. Now with all those rules in mind, key tasks include:
- Finding a good accident reconstructionist
- Gathering police reports
- Getting an estate open when necessary
- Beginning timely work on case preparation
It is our experience that loved ones who might help are also dealing with crippling grief. At the same time, they’re attending to various personal family matters and arrangements. Not to mention trying to cope with financial consequences. Personal emotional recovery is aided by having legal counsel. Let us deal with the legal issues of both the wrongful death case and any other probate issues.
So, the whole business is not just tragic and life-changing, it is full of difficult issues to manage. If you have questions or concerns about either wrongful death claims or a probate issue let us know. Garrison Law Firm, LLC is ready to assist in any way possible.