What Damages Can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?
The last thing your family may want to deal with after the tragic loss of a loved one’s life is a legal claim. Pursuing a wrongful death action, however, can bring your loved one justice and your family closure. It can also result in damages, or financial compensation, being paid for related costs and losses. Learn what types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death case in Kentucky to understand your rights.
What Is a Wrongful Death Case?
According to Kentucky Revised Statutes Section 411.130, a wrongful death is a fatal injury inflicted by the negligent or wrongful act of another person. When someone loses his or her life under these circumstances, the victim’s surviving family members may be entitled to recover financial compensation through a wrongful death case. This is a civil action that seeks damages from one or more defendants for causing the victim’s death.
The damages that may be recovered through a wrongful death claim in Kentucky start with reasonable burial and funeral expenses. A “reasonable” amount depends on the circumstances but is typically capped at around $10,000. This money is awarded to pay for the deceased person’s (decedent’s) funeral and burial services, including a casket, flower arrangements, cremation, urn, headstone and memorial service.
If the decedent had medical bills associated with his or her final injury or illness, these can be reimbursed with a wrongful death suit. These may include ambulance fees, a hospital stay, time spent in the ICU, emergency surgeries and life support. If the decedent experienced any pain and suffering from the date of the accident to the date of death, this could also be a recoverable loss.
Loss of Financial Support
Surviving family members may be eligible for compensation for the loss of the decedent’s financial support. This can include projected lost income and wages the decedent likely would have earned throughout his or her lifetime, adjusted for inflation, as well as any loss of inheritance suffered by next of kin.
Loss of Consortium Damages
Section 411.145 of Kentucky law grants the wife or husband of someone who was killed as a result of a negligent or wrongful act the right to seek damages for loss of consortium. This means the loss of the decedent’s “services, assistance, aid, society, companionship, and the conjugal relationship between husband and wife.”
Kentucky law states that if the act of the defendant was willful or grossly negligent, punitive damages may be recovered. Unlike compensatory damages, which serve to make surviving family members whole again, punitive damages aim to punish the defendant. They also serve as a lesson to others in the community, warning them not to make the same mistake.
Punitive damages penalize the person responsible for the victim’s death for acts or omissions that were willful or especially negligent. For example, if the defendant intended to seriously injure or kill the decedent by committing a crime such as assault with a deadly weapon, punitive damages can be awarded. Gross negligence is a level of carelessness that displays a willful or wanton disregard for the lives or safety of others.
Who Receives the Damages Recovered in a Wrongful Death Case?
In Kentucky, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death action. However, this is not necessarily the individual who is awarded a financial settlement. State law lists who will receive any damages awarded in a wrongful death case in the following order: a surviving spouse, a spouse and children, surviving children if there is no spouse, the decedent’s parents, and the decedent’s estate. The amount awarded to each eligible party will depend on the circumstances.
For more information about the damages available in a wrongful death claim in Kentucky, contact an attorney for a free consultation.