By definition, a wrongful death constitutes one in which someone dies because of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. For instance, your loved one could die because a doctor or other health care professional committed medical malpractice. Or (s)he could die in a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver. Or (s)he could die because someone murdered him or her.
All of these represent examples of wrongful death. Keep in mind that, as FindLaw explains, if your loved one dies because of someone’s criminal action, your wrongful death lawsuit will be separate from any criminal trial the perpetrator undergoes. Nor does the perpetrator need to receive a conviction in order for you to recover in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Unfortunately, money damages are the only thing you can recover in a wrongful death lawsuit. Why? Because in any civil suit, including those for wrongful death, money damages are the only thing a judge or jury can award you. However, even though money will never make up for the loss of your loved one, holding the defendant accountable financially if in no other way may well give you a sense of closure as well as a sense of justice.
Money damages types
If you win your lawsuit you can collect both monetary damages and non-monetary damages. Your monetary damages consist of those on which you can place a precise value, such as the following:
- The amount of your deceased loved one’s hospital and other medical expenses prior to his or her death
- The amount of his or her ambulance bill
- The amount of his or her funeral bill
Conversely, your non-monetary damages consist of those on which you cannot place a precise value, such as the following:
- The loss of your loved one’s financial support
- The loss of his or her love, affection, guidance, counsel, etc.
- The loss of the inheritance you would have received from him or her had (s)he lived a full life expectancy
If the judge or jury determines that the defendant’s actions in causing your loved one’s death were particularly heinous or egregious, they may also award you punitive damages above your actual damages so as to punish the defendant.