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What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Indiana?

What Is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement in Indiana?

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.

There is no average wrongful death settlement because many factors will influence the value of a case. Meeting with a lawyer will help you understand these factors and evaluate your case.

How Does Indiana Define “Wrongful Death”?

average wrongful death settlement

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 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;
  • Deter other people from repeating the defendant’s wrongful conduct.

Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death

indiana wrongful death damages

The most common events that trigger wrongful death lawsuits include:

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.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Indiana?

Indiana law specifies who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The party filing the lawsuit does so on behalf of the deceased person's estate and survivors. As such, just because you might not qualify to file a wrongful death lawsuit does not mean that you will not share in the damages awarded.

Under Indiana law, the personal representative of the deceased is the default party designated to file a wrongful death action. This makes sense because the personal representative can act on behalf of the deceased person and distribute any damages awarded with the person's other property.

Child Decedents

Children are an exception to Indiana's wrongful death law. For purposes of a wrongful death lawsuit, "child" means an unmarried individual without dependents who is one of the following:

  • Under 20 years old;
  • Under 23 years old and enrolled in college, vocational school, or technical school;

The law identifies three parties who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit for a child:

  • One or both parents;
  • The child's guardian;
  • The parent awarded custody after a divorce;

If the wrong party files a lawsuit, a court can dismiss it and force the process to start over.

Adult Decedents

When an adult dies, only the personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the person died with a will, the personal representative is the same as the executor of the estate. If the person did not have a will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative.

Indiana Wrongful Death Damages

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Indiana's wrongful death statute specifically identifies recoverable damages. These damages vary depending on whether the deceased person is an adult or a child. Additionally, Indiana caps certain types of damages that you can recover for wrongful death.

The way Indiana law structures damages makes the outcome of wrongful death claims more predictable. You and your attorney can collect receipts and wage statements to come up with a fairly accurate estimate of the damages you are likely to recover. 

And since Indiana caps certain types of non-economic damages, you can predict a range into which your total jury award could fall.

Whether the accident victim was an adult or child, you can always recover compensation for these items:

  • Medical and hospital costs
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Depending on whether the deceased person was an adult or child, the personal representative may recover damages for other losses suffered.

Indiana law also specifies some types of losses for which you cannot get compensated. For example, you cannot collect damages for grief due to the death of your loved ones.

Child Decedents

In addition to general losses, a jury can award compensation when the deceased was a child for the following:

  • Debts of the child;
  • Loss of the child's services
  • Loss of the child's love and companionship
  • Reasonable costs for counseling for the child's parents or siblings
  • Costs of administration of the child's estate, including lawyer fees

A jury can only award damages for the time that the child would have been a child.

Deceased Was an Unmarried Adult with No Dependents

Indiana has a special statute that covers deceased victims who are:

  • Unmarried
  • Not children
  • Have no dependent children or other dependents

A jury in these cases can award damages for the general losses listed previously as well as non-economic losses, including:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Medical costs for the fatal injury

In an action for the wrongful death of an unmarried adult without dependents, damages cannot include compensation for punitive damages, the grief of the survivors, or income losses.

Damages for loss of love and companionship are capped at $300,000 under Indiana law. This means that the value of these cases will consist of the costs incurred at the person's death plus $300,000.

Deceased Was Married and/or Has Surviving Dependents

filing a wrongful death lawsuit

Everyone else, namely people who have a surviving spouse, dependent children, or both, can recover the general losses plus lost earnings. The rationale for this difference is that the surviving spouse or dependents relied on the deceased person's earnings for financial support.

When the deceased has a surviving spouse or dependents, the court can award compensatory damages to cover:

  • Hospital and medical expenses;
  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Lost earnings;

Indiana law does not specifically preclude the court from compensating lost love and companionship, so these damages might also be available.

What Are the Limits for Wrongful Death Settlement in Indiana?

Indiana imposes caps on various types of wrongful death claims depending on who caused the death and which category the victim falls into.

The caps imposed by Indiana law include:

  • When the death resulted from medical malpractice, Indiana caps compensation at $1.8 million;
  • When the death resulted from a government actor's negligence, Indiana caps the compensatory damages at $700,000;
  • When the deceased person had a spouse or dependents, Indiana imposes no caps unless the death resulted from medical malpractice or a government actor;
  • When the deceased person was a child, Indiana limits the compensation to the losses sustained up to the child's 20th birthday or 23rd birthday if they were enrolled in secondary education;
  • When the deceased person was unmarried and had no dependents, Indiana caps the compensation for loss of love and companionship at $300,000;

Generally, the jury does not receive instructions about the damage caps before deliberating. If they return a verdict greater than the cap, the judge must reduce the award to meet it.

These caps can deprive the family of the compensation they deserve. But they are built into Indiana law and must be taken into account when assessing the value of a wrongful death claim.

How Is Wrongful Death Compensation Distributed in Indiana?

Regardless of who brings a wrongful death action in Indiana, Indiana law determines who shares in the settlement or damages awarded.


  • For a deceased child, the parents share jointly unless they are divorced, in which case the court apportions the compensation between them.
  • For a deceased single person without dependents, the estate gets reimbursed for expenses, and the parents or non-dependent children receive the rest.
  • For a deceased person with a spouse or dependents, the estate gets reimbursed and the rest gets distributed to the surviving spouse and dependent children with their personal property.

If someone dies without anyone to share in the compensation, it gets included in the deceased person's estate.

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.

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 an Experienced Indiana Wrongful Death Lawyer Today

A wrongful death claim gives you the opportunity to pursue financial compensation. But more importantly, it can bring justice and closure. Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney will increase your chances of winning a wrongful death lawsuit.

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.


Is a wrongful death settlement taxable in Indiana?

Any compensatory damages you receive from a wrongful death lawsuit for physical or financial losses are not taxable by the IRS. But compensation in a wrongful death case for emotional losses and punitive damages are taxable.

How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

After you win a wrongful death case, the at-fault party and their insurers will pay your wrongful death attorney. The attorney will deduct legal fees and litigation costs and send the rest to the party who brought the lawsuit or the survivors, depending on the settlement terms or the court's instructions.

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