When you lose a loved one due to someone else's carelessness or negligence, it can be heartbreaking and leave your entire family feeling lost and confused. Unfortunately, Indiana law doesn't give you a lot of time to grieve before important decisions have to be made. Suddendeath.org suggests that everybody responds differently to a sudden loss, and most people exhibit shock during the first few weeks. Some folks grieve for years after the death of a loved one.
In most situations, the statute of limitations for bringing a lawsuit for your loved one's death may run out well before the grieving process has ended. So, it's important to contact an Indiana wrongful death attorney as soon as possible, even if you aren't sure if there is a case. Still, families are often concerned about which person should be in charge of pursuing a claim.
Types of Claims You Can Bring on Behalf of a Loved One
When a person dies due to negligence of any kind (auto accident, motorcycle crash, slip and fall), there are generally two basic ways that the family can bring an action against the party responsible for the death. These are either (1) wrongful death or a (2) survival action. The differences are very important.
What is an Indiana Wrongful Death?
Under IC:34-23 of the Indiana Code, a wrongful death claim is one that is brought by the personal representative of the Estate of the Decedent. You might say, a wrongful death claim belongs to the living (those who survive the loss of their loved one). In Indiana the potential recovery changes if it is an adult with no dependents or a child that passed away.
The Estate has the right to collection reasonable medical and hospital expenses, funeral and burial expenses. Lost earnings are also an element of damages.
Decedent leaves surviving spouse or dependent children
If the Decedent is survived by a spouse or dependent children, they are entitled to non-economic damages, loss of love, companionship, affection, and parental guidance.
Decedent is an adult with no dependents
A surviving parent is able to collect non-economic damages up to $300,000 if he/she/they can prove an ongoing and substantial relationship with the adult child that passed away. Under this provision of the wrongful death act, attorney's fees can also be awarded to the party bringing the claim.
Decedent is a child who leaves parents
The law can be found here. Under the law a child is an unmarried individual without dependents who is less than 20 years old or less than 23 years of if in school. The damages that may be awarded under these circumstances include:
- Loss of the child's services;
- Loss of the child's love and companionship;
- Healthcare expenses;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Uninsured debts of the child that the parent is responsible for;
- The administration of the child's estate, including attorney's fees.
- Damages are also limited depending on the child's and parents ages.
One of the keys to keep in mind is that the Personal Representative is the only plaintiff. Any money recovered will be divided among the surviving loved ones according to the degrees of dependency (the nature and degree of their relationships and dependence on the decedent).
What is a Survival Action?
Under IC-34-9-3-4, Indiana Code a survival action is one that is brought by the representative of the Decedent's Estate when a person receives personal injuries and dies from a cause other than the personal injuries. You might say, this claim belongs to the dead. It is a possession of the decedent – a right, if you will, that could have been realized during the decedent's life, had he or she not died. Death does not need to be related to the injury in question. A person may have a pending action for an injury during life, but then die due to something completely unrelated. The law allows his or her estate to continue pursuing the case to recover funds that would have passed to heirs through the estate.
A survival action, like a wrongful death action, will have to go through the probate process if the case settles and proceeds are distributed.
Hiring a Michigan City, Indiana Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you've lost someone close to you because of negligence, don't guess or rely on your friends' advice about your legal rights. The wrongful death attorney at Pejic & DiMartino will review the facts and circumstances of your case. Sometimes, just talking to an experienced lawyer can help you make an informed choice about how to proceed. The call is free, and we never take a fee unless we are able to help you recover compensation.