What Actually Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is made when an individual dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company, or entity.
Who Can Legally Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the State of Utah, the wrongful death statute details who can bring the claim. Typically, the claim is brought by the deceased person’s immediate family members, such as a spouse, children, parents or, sometimes, even siblings.
What Types of Damages Are Survivors Entitled to in a Wrongful Death Claim?
There are two types of damages. There are economic damages and non-economic damages, or general damages. The survivors are entitled to damages, such as medical and funeral expenses, loss of past and future financial support, loss or reduction of an inheritance, loss of pension benefits and even loss of medical benefits. These are all categorized as economic damages. Beyond these economic damages, there are enormous consequences to the family that can be recovered through general damages. These losses would include the loss of companionship, love, comfort, care, protection and affection. These are things that can’t be measured by math or an economist. Those would all be considered general damages and certainly are a huge portion of the damages we’re seeking to recover on behalf of our clients.
How Is the Amount of Damages Determined in a Wrongful Death Suit?
Past economic damages are determined by what is found in the medical bills and potential lost wages. Future economic damages, such as loss of earning potential and those types of things, are determined by an economics expert. That individual will project what the present value of lost and anticipated earnings, pensions or medical benefits would be and present them in a report.
The most difficult aspect of the entire wrongful death process is determining how to quantify general damages. Clearly, no amount of money would ever properly compensate a family that has tragically lost a loved one. Unfortunately, in civil law, these general damages are determined monetarily; and as Ogden wrongful death attorneys, we look at historical evidence and data to determine what juries have typically paid under particular circumstances and try to apply those to each case so that we have an idea of how those damages can be measured.
Are Punitive Damages Ever Awarded in Wrongful Death Cases?
Absolutely, particularly with regard to businesses that are reckless and disregard the rights of others to the point of causing the death of another person. These damages are important to deter that conduct and to change future behavior.
How Are the Damages Divided If There Are Multiple Heirs in a Wrongful Death Scenario?
There are two ways to look at this: 1) with a will and 2) without a will. If the deceased person had a will, damages are divided according to the language of the will. If a person dies without a will, then damages are divided equally among the qualified heirs. For example, if there is a surviving spouse, then this person would get everything; there is no division. But if there is no surviving spouse and three surviving children, damages would be split three ways among the children. It’s important to note that the parties and heirs can always agree to something different; the law just dictates what happens if no one can agree.
Should Each Heir Have Their Own Separate Attorney?
That’s a somewhat tricky question. I would look at the case in two different scenarios. First, if a person is just pursuing a wrongful death claim and trying to seek damages for that claim on their own, there’s no need to hire separate counsel. Now if the heirs are trying to determine how an award or settlement should be divided and there’s a dispute, that’s another story. I would always advise clients to seek separate counsel if there is a dispute on who is getting what from a settlement.
For more information on wrongful death claims in Utah, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (801) 499-5060 today.