What Can Survivors Recover in a Wrongful Death Case?

The death of a loved one a difficult time in everyone’s life. Even more traumatic, though, is when our loved ones are taken too soon either by sudden natural causes, by an accident, or by the misconduct of another person. Those situations are difficult to even process because there was no time to prepare and often happen completely out of the blue.

The stages of grief begin to happen as you make your way from shock to denial to anger. The emotions are high and if there is someone to whom you can assign blame for the accident, you seek them out. There is certainly a struggle when it comes to seeking legal action when a loved one’s life is taken prematurely, but it is important to keep things in perspective and understand why certain damages are awarded to families by Florida law.1

There are two general kinds of damages that may be awarded:

  • Compensatory Damages – Damages that are designed to reimburse people for the value of what they lost.
  • Punitive Damages – Damages that are designed to deter the defendant from performing similar egregious actions in the future.

Neither damage is designed to be a profit center and often, they fall short of adequately reimbursing the plaintiff. Money certainly cannot replace the memories and time spent with loved ones, but it is the only means by which a court has to offer any sort of justice.

This blog will focus on compensatory damages to give insight into what the court will examine to determine what was lost in order to attempt to assign a value to be award to the survivors. Four categories the court examines include Lost Support and Services, Lost Companionship, Mental Pain and Suffering, and Medical and Funeral Expenses.

Medical and Funeral Expenses

The easiest calculation to make is the amount of the medical and funeral expenses that were a direct result of the incident leading up to the death. The amount of these expenses should be calculated and reimbursable by the defendant.

Lost Support and Services

Another pretty objective calculation is the monetary value of the income and services provided by the deceased upon which the survivors relied for their way of life. When a person dies, they can leave a financial void. A household may have two wage-earners, so the death of one cuts down the household income. A household may have a wage-earner and a stay-at-home parents, so losing the stay-at-home parent will increase the costs associated with those services. Moving forward will be difficult emotionally, but the loss of the support or services should not be overlooked. Courts will determine the anticipated income of the deceased and multiply it by the reasonable lifespan for a similarly aged person. That number will be awarded to surviving members to help offset the financial void.

Lost Companionship, Instruction, and Guidance

More difficult to calculate is the loss of companionship, instruction, and guidance. These are intangible losses. Companionship is generally defined as the conjugal fellowship of husband and wife and the right of each to the company, cooperation and aid of the other in every conjugal relation. When assigning a value to companionship, the court will look to the strength of the relationship. For people with a strong relationship, the emotional support, and companionship that the deceased has may be irreplaceable and as such the value assigned to that companionship will be higher than a couple with marital discord.

Minor children may also experience an invaluable and irreplaceable bond with their parents. This is also an intangible loss, however, in the cases of an actively involved parent, the court will attempt to assign a monetary value to the loss of the companionship, instruction, and guidance that the deceased parent would have provided.

Mental Pain and Suffering

Like the loss of companionship, mental pain and suffering are difficult to assess. Spouses, minor and adult children, and parents of a deceased minor or adult child may make a claim for mental pain and suffering. The emotional toll and pain of unexpectedly losing someone varies for each person. In some cases, it may result in significant depression while in others, the loss may be experienced as stress or a sense of “being off”. Regardless of how you experience loss, you are required to live in a new world, one without your loved one. There is definitely a learning curve involved and lots of bumps and bruises along the way. Courts will attempt to assign a value for those bumps and bruises and require the defendant to compensate.

If You Lost a Loved One Because of the Actions of Another, Contact Our New Port Richey Wrongful Death Attorneys Today

Calculating damages after the death of a loved one is an emotional and involved process. The experienced attorneys at Dolman Law Group understand the feelings and the laws involved. Contact us today to see how we can assist you.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275