If a loved one was recently killed in an accident of any kind, it's important that you talk with a wrongful death attorney right away. The attorney will help you understand your state's statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits and can help you build a strong case. Since the statute of limitations can be as little as one year, the sooner you talk with an attorney, the better. If you're wondering if it's worth pursuing a wrongful death claim, you should understand the types of damages you may be able to collect. Here are a few of the main types of damages you might receive.
Any medical costs incurred as a result of the accident can be reimbursed by the responsible party. This includes all tests, treatments, specialists, and other fees accumulated during treatment. Just remember that you can only claim the expenses that directly relate to the accident and your loved one's passing. Treatments received before the accident don't qualify.
Funeral Expenses and End-of-Life Costs
Even if your loved one had burial insurance or other life insurance, you can still be eligible for reimbursement of the funeral costs as well as any other end-of-life costs, like the expenses for the burial plot, the hospital's morgue fees and other associated expenses.
Estimated Lost Wages And Financial Support
Particularly if your loved one was the primary income earner, you'll want to talk with your wrongful death attorney about reimbursement for lost wages. This is a pretty complex calculation. It's based on an estimate of how many years your loved one would have still been working, their current salary and any potential pay increases that would have been expected. Once that number is determined, the actual award is based on how much you'd need, if invested, to reach that level of financial contribution over that period of time.
For example, if your loved one was earning $65,000 per year and was 20 years from retirement, the calculation starts with $65,000 x 20. That's the total base salary. Added to that would be any estimated pay increases for merit and cost of living raises. For example, assume that your loved one would have received an additional $20,000 over the life of their career from pay increases. Then, they evaluate any benefits that were provided. If you'll now have to pay for health insurance when you didn't previously, that cost is considered too.
For awards that are investment adjusted, the final stage of the calculation takes the estimated total (in this case, approximately $1,320,000) and accounts for the lowest current market interest rate. If the average investment would yield a 5 percent return over 20 years, the total amount may be adjusted accordingly so that, when invested, you are likely to receive the full amount of the wage loss estimate.
Emotional Suffering And Loss Of Companionship
These costs are harder to quantify. If you're looking to seek an award for these losses, you should talk with your wrongful death attorney (like those at Bangel, Bangel, & Bangel) about how to negotiate that. He or she can help you come up with a reasonable asking amount based on your situation and what your state allows.