Wrongful Death - A Measure of Damages

When a  loved one has died due to the negligent or careless conduct of another, the lawsuit that may follow is termed a wrongful death action.  This posting will focus on the concept of reasonable compensation for the non-economic aspects of the loss of a loved one.

In a wrongful death action, the applicable jury instruction states provides that reasonable compensation should be awarded for the loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, solace, or moral support.  This is non-economic damage.

Interestingly, when a jury determines damages for wrongful death, they are instructed not to consider (1) any pain and suffering of the decedent, (2) any grief or sorrow of the heirs, or (3) the poverty or wealth of any heir.  Although, family members obviously will suffer grief and sorrow over the loss of their loved one, those are not the damages that would be compensated in a wrongful death action.  Rather, the focus for a jury’s decision is on the loss of love, care, comfort and society.

Often the plaintiff in a wrongful death action will be the spouse of the person who has died, or the adult children of the decedent.  Sometimes, as in a current matter being litigated by the Janssen Malloy law firm, the plaintiffs in a wrongful death action are the siblings (brothers or sisters) of the decedent.  This occurs when the decedent died without a spouse, with no children of his/her own, and without a then living biological parent.

The loss of a loved one’s companionship, comfort and affection is something every person can understand.  While it is challenging for jurors to award reasonable compensation for such a loss, given that such a loss is a universal human experience, jurors typically take their responsibility very seriously in an attempt to be fair.

Determining who are the proper party plaintiffs in a wrongful death action can be complex, and the guidance and counsel of a experienced trial lawyer is essential to properly assist a family during such a difficult time.

The attorneys at the Janssen Malloy LLP are experienced in handling all different kinds of wrongful death actions, and stand ready to assist your family, if need arises.