What Are the Legal Remedies in Indiana Wrongful Death Cases?
When a loved one dies as the result of negligent actions by another person, Indiana law provides legal remedies to the deceased person’s survivors. Damage awards usually include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, funeral expenses, and loss of companionship.
Indiana Wrongful Death
In Indiana wrongful death cases, state laws allow legal remedies for surviving family members against the responsible party. When death is caused by negligence of another party, damages awarded to the victim’s heirs or estate may include related medical expenses, present and future lost wages, funeral expenses, burial costs, and loss of companionship.
Indiana General Wrongful Death Act
Indiana’s General Wrongful Death Act (GWDA), originally established in 1881, was enacted to provide relief in wrongful death cases. The GWDA allows legal actions through a personal injury lawyer by a victim’s heirs against the negligent party responsible for the victim’s death. Under the GWDA, Indiana courts permit the surviving spouse, dependent children, and dependent next of kin to recover damages for related expenses, as well as for the loss of love and affection of the decedent. The GWDA does not permit recovery for related attorneys fees.
Indiana Adult Wrongful Death Act
The Indiana Adult Wrongful Death Act (AWDA) addresses wrongful death cases for unmarried adults with no dependents. In such cases, a personal representative appointed by the court is permitted to file legal actions against the negligent party on behalf of the decedent’s estate. The estate is allowed to seek damages for reasonable hospital costs, medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and loss of the adult person’s love and companionship suffered by the decedent’s non-dependent parent and children. Under the AWDA, damages for loss of love and companionship are determined by each survivor’s specific loss and distributed accordingly. The AWDA does permit recovery for related attorneys fees.
While AWDA statutes provide legal remedies for family members of those who die without dependents, recoveries for damages are limited:
- Damages for the lost earnings of the deceased are not recoverable
- Wrongful death claims must be pursued by the deceased party’s estate
- Non-dependent adults and children must prove the existence of a substantial, ongoing relationship with the deceased to recover for loss of love and companionship
- Total cumulative damages for collective loss of love and companionship are capped at $300,000.00 by the state
Indiana Child Wrongful Death Act
The Indiana Child Wrongful Death Act (CWDA) addresses wrongful death cases for unmarried children who are younger than 20 years of age, or younger than 23 years of age if enrolled in a college, university, or technical school. Wrongful death claims or lawsuits filed with an Indiana personal injury lawyer must be brought by the child’s parents, not the child’s estate. In most cases, claims or lawsuits are pursued jointly by both parents when married. If parents are divorced and do not have joint custody of the child, damages are apportioned to the parents according to their respective losses.
When a wrongful death lawsuit involves the death of a child, parents may seek recovery for loss of the child’s love and companionship, the child’s services, health care expenses, funeral and burial costs, uninsured debts of the child, and reasonable expenses for pain and suffering and emotional distress, such as therapy and counseling services for grieving parents and/or minor siblings.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
By legal definition, a wrongful death occurs whenever any individual dies as the result of negligent or careless, reckless, intentional harmful actions of another person. Wrongful death cases are considered “wrongful” because death is usually preventable. Wrongful deaths often occur from the following:
- Motor vehicle collisions
- Work-related accidents
- Premises liability slip and falls
- Defective products
- Defective medical devices and drugs
- Medical malpractice
Wrongful death lawsuits filed by Indiana personal injury lawyers are civil claims that warrant monetary compensation for damages. In most cases, there are no limits or caps on awarded damages, but certain cases do have capped damages.
In medical malpractice cases, all claims are capped at $1,800,000. If the deceased person is an unmarried adult at least 23 years of age with no minor children, non-economic damages are capped at $300,000. However, reimbursement for economic damages such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and attorney fees may be awarded in addition to the $300,000 limit. If a wrongful death lawsuit is filed against a government entity, such as the state of Indiana, or a town, city, or school, a cap of $700,000 applies to all claims, regardless of the amount of medical bills, funeral expenses, or attorney fees.
In Indiana, wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of death in civil court. This statute of limitations applies to all wrongful death cases involving both adults and children, even when a criminal law case is proceeding at the same time.