If your loved one was severely injured in an accident and died halfway through the claims process, their case does not die with them. Instead, it can be carried on by family members.
It's a terrible thing to lose a loved one, and families should know their rights in order to pursue a claim on behalf of the deceased.
What Happens to the Personal Injury Claim They Started?
It is continued by the family. Additionally, the family will now file a wrongful death lawsuit. Though these two lawsuits are separate, they're often wrapped into one trial or settlement.
Wrongful Death Overview
When a person dies because of someone else's negligence, the victim's surviving family members can sue for "wrongful death." However, there are restrictions on who in the family will be responsible for the claim; generally, a wrongful death suit can only be brought by the personal representative of the deceased's estate. Usually, this person is appointed in a will.
The newly appointed "head" of the wrongful death claim, (called an executor), has full say over the claim. They're in charge of hiring a lawyer, talking to the insurance companies, etc. They also decide how much money they're willing to accept during the settlement process. When the wrongful death suit is settled, the money won will be given to the executor. However, that money must pass to different parties (other family members) as directed by the deceased's will.
To be clear, if the victim dies of an unrelated cause (like cancer), it remains a personal injury case (as opposed to a wrongful death case). Wrongful death only applies if the deceased died from accident-related causes.
Money Claimed in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The main measure of money claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit, called "damages," is financial injury. This includes the loss of support, lost prospect of inheritance, medical and funeral expenses that arose from that person's death.
To determine the damages, it's relevant to consider the age, earning capacity, life expectancy, health and intelligence of the deceased. The jury is in charge of hearing the evidence of the case and deciding how much money to award the family, though their decision isn't final. The court can adjust their recommendation up or down depending on personal factors.
The surviving family can be compensated for:
- The deceased's pre-death pain and suffering
- Medical costs incurred as a result of the accident
- Funeral costs
- Burial costs
- The loss of expected income
- The loss of expected inheritance
- The loss of services the deceased used to provide
- The loss of care, love, companionship and guidance the deceased used to provide
What's Your Next Step
First, you must determine if you're to be appointed by law as the executor, the person in charge of taking over the deceased's case.
Second, since your loved one was filing a personal injury claim before they died, you must pick up that lawsuit in place of the deceased.
Last, I'd advice you to consult with your personal injury attorney. Your attorney can ensure that this process is executed according to the law, and that you, your family and your deceased received the full justice they deserve.