What You Need to Know About Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana
Posted On behalf of Pfeifer Morgan & Stesiak on Jan 23, 2017 in Wrongful Death
If you think a loved one's death was caused by another person's reckless actions and you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit, there are several things you need to know about Indiana's wrongful death statute.
Under Indiana Code 34-23-1, wrongful death is defined as a situation where a person's death was caused by the wrongful act or omission of another person.
Wrongful death can occur in a variety of situations, including:
Indiana's wrongful death statute also identifies the parties who have legal standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit, as the victim of negligence is dead.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?
Legal standing in a wrongful death case is governed by the "something to lose" doctrine. This means the person filing the lawsuit must have lost something because of the victim's death and he or she will continue to lose something unless the negligent party is held liable.
That is why Indiana law says wrongful death claims can only be filed by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. This is the person in charge of administering the deceased person's estate, often a spouse, child, parent or sibling.
The only exception to this rule is if the victim was a child. In these situations, the parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit even if they are not in charge of the estate.
If the parents are divorced, the parent with legal custody has to file. If the parents' parental rights have been terminated or both parents are dead, the lawsuit must be filed by the child's legal guardian.
Indiana Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
In Indiana, wrongful death claims must be made in the two years following the date of death. The statute of limitations is the same for claims pertaining to a child, or when a criminal case is in procession.
If you miss the deadline, you lose the opportunity to obtain compensation and hold the negligent party accountable for your loved one's death.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
Damages from a wrongful death lawsuit are intended to compensate the estate and family members for the victim's death.
If the claim is successful, the estate, spouse and children of the deceased could recover various forms of compensation, including:
- Medical expenses
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost benefits and wages the decedent presumably would have earned if the death did not occur
- Legal expenses pertaining to the wrongful death claim
If the decedent is a child, parents may also seek damages for:
- Grief counseling for immediate family
- Loss of companionship, love and services
Any medical, funeral or burial damages are given directly to the decedent’s estate for payment of related outstanding expenses. Damages awarded for lost wages will be split among the decedent’s dependents.
Indiana does not permit wrongful death claimants to recover damages for pain and suffering or other grief-related expenses. The state also caps wrongful death damages at $300,000.
If you believe you have a claim for the wrongful death of a loved one, the wrongful death attorneys of Pfeifer, Morgan & Stesiak are available to guide you through the legal process. If we take your case, we will fight to uphold your rights while working to obtain all of the compensation you deserve during this difficult time.