What is Wrongful Death?
Losing a loved one is always incredibly difficult. It’s made even worse if you lost a family member suddenly due to someone else’s negligence. If you’ve lost someone due to wrongful death, you need justice for your deceased loved one.
If you lost a family member because of the negligence or wrongful actions of an individual or business, it’s within your legal right to seek justice for the person you lost. You can hire an Indiana wrongful death attorney to file a lawsuit so that you can hold the guilty party accountable and gain financial compensation for your loss.
You need expert attorneys to assist you through the process of bringing the guilty party to court. A skilled Indiana wrongful death attorney will conduct a detailed investigation into your loved one’s untimely passing so that your family receives a financial settlement. No amount of money can replace the loss of a family member, but compensation can help you and your family pay for funeral and burial costs as well as keep you financially secure as you grieve your loss.
At Flores Law Group, we’re on your side to get you the justice your lost loved one and your family deserve. We can help you with your wrongful death case so that your family can begin healing and move forward.
Indiana defines wrongful death as “the death of a human being as the result of a wrongful act of another person.” Indiana Code 34-23-1.1 states that wrongful death is “caused by the wrongful act or omission of another.” Wrongful death can result from the negligence or recklessness of another person, or it may result from someone intentionally harming another person. If the death could have been prevented, courts will often label it a “wrongful death.”
When bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against another person, your legal team must have a burden of proof that your loved one’s passing was a wrongful death. Four key factors prove that your family member’s passing meets the qualifications for wrongful death. These factors are:
- Negligence: If the death of your family member either wholly or partially resulted from the thoughtless, careless, or reckless actions of another individual, this is considered negligence in court.
- Breach of Duty: If the person you’re bringing to court owed a duty to your lost loved one, this is considered a “breach of duty” and can result in a wrongful death settlement.
- Causation: Your legal team needs to be able to prove that your loved one’s death was caused by the negligence or intentionally wrongful act by another person.
- Damages: Your family member’s passing must have quantifiable damages. Some of these damages may include medical bills before their passing, loss of income for your family, and funeral expenses. Additionally, the pain and suffering of your family member leading up to their death can also have associated monetary damages.
Something critical to understand about wrongful death lawsuits is that it’s a civil action—not criminal. This means that the settlement does not depend on criminal proceedings brought on against the person at fault. The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is awarding damages for the lost family member, and the guilty person will not face criminal proceedings as a result of your civil lawsuit. That being said, individuals can experience both criminal charges and a wrongful death lawsuit as a result of their role in someone else’s death.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
There are many different potential causes of wrongful death. Some of the many types include:
- Car accidents: A death in a car crash can be the result of negligence because of reckless driving, distracted driving, failing to yield, ignoring traffic signals, speeding, and driving without a driver’s license.
- Commercial truck accidents: Wrongful death due to a commercial truck accident results from similar factors as a standard car accident, but commercial trucks are far larger and heavier than a standard passenger vehicle, which increases the risk of death in an accident.
- Motorcycle accidents: Motorcycle accidents can be deadly for motorcyclists and others on the road. These accidents often happen at high speeds, and motorcyclists are far more exposed than the average driver, meaning that their risk of death is much greater.
- Bus accidents: Negligent bus driving can result in the death of another driver on the road as well as the death of a bus passenger.
- Dangerous or defective medical devices: A defective or unsafe medical device can lead to a person’s death. For example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that there were 900 cases of adverse effects associated with inferior vena cava filters, and many lost their lives due to the defective medical product.
- Dangerous or defective drugs: Similar to wrongful death due to a dangerous or defective medical device, a dangerous prescription drug on the market can lead to loss of life. For example, the opioid crisis claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and many of those deaths resulted from legally prescribed opioids.
- Intentional act of violence: This can include assault, battery, or even murder. A person undergoing criminal proceedings for another’s death can also undergo a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Driving under the influence accidents: If someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol causes a wreck that takes someone’s life, they can face a wrongful death lawsuit in addition to criminal charges.
- Sporting and recreational accidents: These accidents can occur due to someone’s negligence. Common activities that can lead to wrongful death include ziplining, diving, horseback riding, and swimming.
- ATV accidents: All-terrain vehicle wrongful death cases are surprisingly common in Indiana. Death can result from falling from an ATV or crashing.
- Bicycle accidents: Wrongful death due to a bike accident includes non-motorized bicycles, including dirtbikes, racing bikes, and other types of recreational bikes.
- Pedestrian accidents: Tragically, pedestrians can often fall victim to reckless and negligent drivers. This often occurs while pedestrians are in the process of crossing a street.
- Infant wrongful death: Injuries during childbirth due to a medical mistake or other issues can lead to a baby’s untimely passing.
- Boating accidents: These accidents can result in the death of someone on a boat as well as swimmers.
- Supervised activities: A “supervised activity” is classified as being under the care and supervision of another person. For example, if a child loses their life because of the negligence of their supervisor, that could be classified as “wrongful death.” Additional situations may include death during a field trip or the death of someone in adult care.
- Abuse and neglect: Abuse and neglect wrongful death cases often occur in nursing homes, but they can also include the abuse or neglect of children.
- Slip and fall accidents: This type of wrongful death is also known as a “premises liability claim.” If your loved one lost their life because they slipped and fell in a business due to someone’s negligence, you may be able to win a wrongful death lawsuit or come to a settlement.
- Defective products: Wrongful death due to a defective product occurs when a company’s product causes harm or doesn’t work as advertised and leads to someone’s death. For example, if a tire manufacturer equips its tires with low-grade screws and as a result, someone dies in a wreck because the tire malfunctioned, that could be considered wrongful death due to a defective product.
- Aviation accidents: If a plane accident results from the negligence of a pilot or an airline, that could be considered grounds for wrongful death.
Wrongful Death Caused by Workplace Accidents in Indiana
In 2019, there were 5,333 deaths in the US caused by work injuries, and many of those were due to negligence. When a death occurs in the workplace, the victim’s family will often receive workers’ compensation death benefits, but these benefits are often not enough to sustain the victim’s family. Additionally, there are also many costly expenses associated with the deceased’s funeral and burial.
Indiana has staggeringly low workers’ compensation death benefits. Families can only receive up to 66.66% of the deceased’s weekly paycheck at the time of their death, and the maximum amount a family can receive for a funeral is $7,500. A wrongful death lawsuit against the person or business who was at fault for your family member’s death can help sustain your family financially as you grieve.
There are many potential causes of wrongful death in the workplace. Some of these include factory accidents, transportation accidents, slip and fall accidents, and construction accidents.
Wrongful Death Caused Medical Malpractice in Indiana
Medical malpractice accounts for the most wrongful deaths in the United States and Indiana each year. There are an estimated 210,000 medical malpractice deaths in the US each year, and these can result from:
- Hospital-related infections
- Surgical errors
- Failure to treat or operate
- Anesthesia errors
Many different factors can contribute to medical malpractice that leads to wrongful death, and you need qualified legal professionals to assist you if you take up a case against medical professionals.
Understanding Wrongful Death in Indiana
Three key statutes deal with wrongful death in Indiana. All three statutes fall under Indiana Code Title 34, which deals with civil law and procedures. These include Indiana Code 34-23-1-1, Indiana Code 34-23-2-1, and Indiana Code 34-23-1-2, all of which cover the rules involving wrongful death. The difference between the three codes is that 34-23-1-1 deals with wrongful death in general, 34-23-1-2 covers adult wrongful death, and 34-23-2-1 involves the wrongful death of a child. There are important distinctions between the three different statutes that you need to be aware of when preparing your wrongful death lawsuit.
- Indiana Code 34-23-1-1 Wrongful Death Act:
- This act covers many of the wrongful death claims made in Indiana, and you can read the entire statute here. Within this act, only surviving members of the deceased’s estate, which is typically their next of kin, can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Indiana Code 34-23-1-1 places no limits on the compensation the estate can receive from the civil lawsuit, but compensation for the deceased’s bills and expenses, such as medical bills, funeral, and burial, need to be within a reasonable limit.
- The statute primarily aims to provide compensation for surviving spouses and dependents.
- There is a limitation on how much one can receive due to medical malpractice or wrongful death involving a government institution. You can only receive up to $1,250,000 for medical malpractice, and when it comes to wrongful death involving a government entity, you can only receive up to $700,000.
- Indiana Code 34-23-1-2 Adult Wrongful Death Act:
- The major difference between this statute and the Wrongful Death Act is that the Adult Wrongful Death Act is for deceased individuals who did not have a spouse, children, or dependents.
- Unlike 34-23-1-1 and 34-23-2-1, the Adult Wrongful Death Act comes with significant limitations for the amount of compensation one can receive for wrongful death. The limit is $300,000 on non-economic damages.
- Indiana Code 34-23-2-1 Child’s Wrongful Death Act:
- The Child’s Wrongful Death Act covers deceased individuals who are unmarried, don’t have dependents, and are under the age of 20 or 23 if they were a student at a qualified institution.
- The limits on compensation closely resemble those of Code 34-23-1-1 in that there are no limits on compensation except for cases of medical malpractice and government entities.
- The Indiana General Assembly labeled fetuses as “children” under this statute, so if you lose a viable fetus due to negligence or another qualifier under “wrongful death,” you could still win a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone wrongfully loses their life, surviving members of their family can file a wrongful death lawsuit. As noted previously, only members of the victim’s estate can file under Indiana Code 34-23-1-1. When filing, the court will appoint an estate representative, and the representative is typically a family member. If the victim doesn’t have dependent children or a spouse, their adult children or parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Surviving family members have two years to file a lawsuit after their loved one passes away.
If you’re a family member that was not a dependent or the spouse of the victim, you would file under Code 34-23-1-2, assuming that the victim was an adult.
In cases in which the victim was a child, the deceased does not need an estate. As noted previously, Code 34-23-2-1 qualifies anyone unmarried with no dependence under 20 or 23 and studying at a qualified institution to be labeled as a child. Either parent of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim, but both parents are required to be part of the lawsuit, assuming their both living.
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim
Proof of negligence is critical for you to win your wrongful death case. There needs to be proof that an individual or business caused the death of the person you lost. There are many different forms of evidence that you can use in a wrongful death lawsuit including:
- Medical records: If your loved one didn’t lose their life at the time of the incident that eventually resulted in their death, they may have medical records that offer invaluable evidence for proving that the defendant, meaning the person or institution you’re bringing to trial, did cause the wrongful death.
- Eyewitness statements: Eyewitness statements can offer exceptional support for your case. They can verify the events that occurred and indicate who was at fault.
- Photographs: Pictures can show the conditions or circumstances leading up to the event that took your loved one’s life, or they can show the aftermath of the event in question to prove guilt. For example, if someone passes away due to a slip and fall, pictures showing the unsafe floor conditions of the guilty establishment can prove their negligence.
- Videos: If the incident in question was caught on a surveillance video or on a smartphone, you can prove that the guilty party was at fault.
- Accident report: Many wrongful death cases involve police reports, especially if the victim died at the time of the incident. If the police file a report, it will include the events that occurred and who was at fault. Accident reports are especially critical when it comes to proving wrongful death due to a vehicular accident.
Obtaining proof of fault during a wrongful death case can often be challenging and take a great deal of time. Evidence is crucial, so consider seeking expert Indiana wrongful death attorneys to help you gather support for your case. When you consult with a wrongful death lawyer, they’ll supply you with your legal options based on the available evidence.
Types of Damages That Are Awarded in a Wrongful Death Claim
A skilled Indiana attorney can get you the damages you deserve in a wrongful death case. Although no amount of money can make up for the death of a loved one, damages can help you pay for expenses relating to your family member’s untimely passing and help you stay financially secure as you grieve. Some of the different types of damages you can be rewarded in a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Medical expenses: If your loved one received medical care leading up to their death, you may receive compensation for bills. Ambulances, hospital care, surgery, and attempted resuscitation can cost a great deal of money, so you need to receive the compensation you deserve to pay off substantial medical bills.
- Lost income: When you lose a family member, you often lose a source of income. This can be incredibly challenging when you lived with the deceased because now you need to pay for living expenses without them. With a wrongful death lawsuit, you can obtain the necessary compensation you need for financial security.
- Lost benefits: Similar to the issue of lost income, you could also lose essential healthcare benefits associated with your lost loved one’s job.
- Funeral and burial: Funerals are often incredibly expensive. You shouldn’t have to worry about the amount of money it takes to have a proper funeral and burial for the deceased.
- Attorney fees and expenses: To take the at-fault party to court, you’ll need a qualified attorney to help you through the process. Additionally, you’ll also need to pay for court fees and additional attorney expenses.
- Loss of parental guidance: If your lost loved one was a parent to your children, you need compensation for emotional damage as well as expenses associated with taking care of your children as a single parent.
- Loss of household services: If you lived with your loved one, you’re also losing someone who helped with the overall upkeep of your home.
- Loss of affection, care, or love: Even though you can’t put a price on the loss of someone you loved, you should still receive compensation for the love, partnership, and care that was provided by your lost family member.
Getting the Compensation You Deserve
The emotional and financial loss that comes with losing a family member is devastating. You and your family deserve compensation from the individual, business, or institution that was at fault for your loss because of negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm.
If you’re ready to move forward with your wrongful death claim, you need to contact a skilled Indiana attorney to handle your case. An expert lawyer can get you a substantially greater amount of compensation for your loss, so don’t wait—contact an Indiana wrongful death attorney.
Why Choose Flores Law Group
Flores Law Group focuses on wrongful death, personal injury, and workers’ compensation cases. We’ll work with you to get the money you deserve from a wrongful death case. We’ll help you understand your rights, and our office will guide you in how to proceed moving forward with your case. Flores Law Group also offers free no-risk consultations, so you can learn more about getting the civil justice you deserve at no cost.
Contact Us Today
You can contact Flores Law Group by calling 317-900-2556, or you can contact us here for a free consultation. Contact an Indiana wrongful death attorney, and move forward towards getting the financial compensation you and your family deserve today!