A wrongful death is a legal action filed by the family of a person who dies due to another person’s wrongdoing or act of negligence. The main purpose of this lawsuit is to seek compensation for all the present and future losses that the family of the deceased are and will be subjected to. Compensation is supposed to cover funeral expenses, lost companionship and lost wages.
States classify losses or damages under the following categories: economic, non-economic and punitive. The specific items contained in each category differ among states, though.
a. Economic damages. These refer to all the financial contributions that the deceased would have provided to his or her family had he or she not died. Economic damages include: financial worth of the goods and services the deceased would have earned for his or her family; loss of possible inheritance; loss of the victim’s wages and other earnings; loss of the deceased victim’s financial benefits, such as pension plan; loss of possible medical coverage for victim’s family members; and, cost of medical treatment and funeral service.
b. Non-economic damages. These include the family’s non-material losses, such as: loss of love and companionship of the deceased; loss of the deceased victim’s care, guidance, nurturing and protection; loss of consortium with the deceased spouse; and, suffering, pain and mental anguish to be suffered by the family.
c. Punitive damages. This type of damages may include compensatory damages; however, in some states where this is not made available in wrongful death lawsuits, the awarding of treble damages, or triple damages, is made instead. Treble damages multiply the amount of actual damages to three. Awarding this type of damage falls on the discretion of the court, though, based on legally acceptable reasons. According to Cornell University, punitive damages are considered punishment and are awarded when the defendant’s behavior is found to be especially harmful.
Punitive damages are basically served on the liable individual to make him or her realize his or her erroneous act and to prevent him or her from committing such error again.
A negligent act, which is often the cause of wrongful death, can be committed by anyone: a driver, a construction worker, an office employee, a pilot, a doctor, etc. While it is true that the family of the deceased, according to the law firm Williams Kherkher, would rather choose to bring closure to the tragic event which has claimed the life of their loved one, it cannot do so until it has found justice and compensation for the damages and pains it has been made to unjustly suffer.