The death of a family member is one of life’s most traumatic experiences. It gets worse, though, if you discover that the death was an unnecessary consequence of someone else’s wrongful conduct. Indiana allows certain parties to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawyers in Indiana can help you obtain compensation for the loss of your family member.
How Does Indiana Define “Wrongful Death”?
What is wrongful death? The Indiana wrongful death definition refers to a death that is caused by someone’s negligent, reckless, or intentional misconduct. A fatal drunk driving accident is a common example of a wrongful death in Indiana.
A wrongful death claim works a lot like a personal injury claim. The major differences are (i) since the victim is dead, survivors must file the lawsuit, and (ii) damages are designed to compensate survivors rather than the victim.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
How does a wrongful death lawsuit work? A wrongful death lawsuit allows survivors to seek compensation in court for a wrongful death accident. A successful claim can:
- Hold the defendant responsible for their wrongful act;
- Provide financial support for the deceased victim’s dependents; and
- Deter other people from repeating the defendant’s wrongful conduct.
What Are The Major Causes of Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
The most common events that trigger wrongful death lawsuits include:
- Road accidents;
- Criminal assaults;
- Slip and fall accidents;
- Defective products, including pharmaceuticals and medical devices;
- Workplace accidents; and
- Medical malpractice.
Most wrongful death claims resolve at the settlement table, not at trial. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to file a lawsuit, however. Wrongful death settlements reached after the filing of a lawsuit can be higher because pretrial discovery can uncover important evidence. Wrongful death medical malpractice claims are particularly likely to result in high compensation because doctors are nearly always well-insured, though there is a compensation limit of about $1.8M in Indiana.
Wrongful Death Damages in Indiana
Indiana has a general wrongful death statute, an adult wrongful death lawsuit, and a child wrongful death lawsuit.
- Indiana’s general wrongful death statute provides for damages to compensate for medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost earnings, and more.
- Indiana’s adult wrongful death statute applies to the death of an unmarried adult with no dependents. Damages include the damages specified in the general wrongful death lawsuits, as well as loss of love and companionship (capped at $300,000).
- Indiana’s child wrongful death statute applies to single victims under 20 or students under 23. Damages include the damages mentioned in the general wrongful death statute plus loss of services, love, and companionship.
Even if the case is resolved at the settlement table, Indiana wrongful death settlements must consider Indiana wrongful death statutes. Both sides must take into account the likely result if the case goes to trial.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana
The steps in a wrongful death lawsuit include the investigation, negotiation, and trial phases.
To maximize your chances of winning a wrongful death suit, you must investigate to gather evidence of the following elements of a wrongful death claim:
- The defendant caused the death of the victim through misconduct (negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct). In some cases you can claim against the wrongful party’s employer even if the employer was not at fault.
- The wrongful act would have entitled the victim to win a personal injury claim.
- The victim left behind surviving beneficiaries, children, or dependents.
- The victim’s death resulted in monetary damages.
Once you complete your investigation, you should attempt to open settlement negotiations. Be prepared to execute step three, trial, if settlement negotiations stall.
So how long does a wrongful death lawsuit take? There is no easy answer to this question. In some cases you can settle your claim in a few weeks. In other cases, especially when the claim goes to trial, it might take years to settle your claim.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim in Indiana. Suing for wrongful death requires careful adherence to Indiana wrongful death law. If the victim was an adult, the personal representative of the victim’s probate estate must file the claim. If the victim was a child, the child’s parent(s) or legal guardian may file the claim.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana?
In Indiana, wrongful death cases are subject to a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must file a lawsuit in court. If you miss the deadline, the court will dismiss your claim, and your opponent will refuse to negotiate with you. In Indiana, the general wrongful death statute of limitations deadline is two years after the date of the victim’s death. Limited exceptions apply to this deadline.
Contact Us Today
If you are considering filing an Indiana wrongful death claim, call Stracci Law Group at 219-525-1000, or contact us online. We serve clients in Crown Point [46307, 46308], Merrillville [46410, 46411], Hammond [46320, 46323] and elsewhere in Northwest Indiana.