Emotional Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

Losing a loved one in a car accident, a medical mishap, on someone’s property or while using a defective product could be grounds to file a wrongful death claim.

Surviving family members may seek compensation for economic damages in order to be made whole financially again and to account for the loss of their loved one’s financial contributions. But just as important is making sure emotional distress losses are adequately addressed in a wrongful death claim.

Importance of Emotional Distress Damages in a Wrongful Death Case 

These types of damages aren’t tangible like economic damages. But sometimes they have greater worth in a wrongful death case than the economic losses. Emotional, or noneconomic, damages compensate surviving family for a loved one’s death that was preventable and due to another party’s negligent actions.

For instance, a driver who has had several drinks is impaired but gets behind the wheel of a car, later crashing head on into another driver. This was clearly an accident that was preventable. Or a surgeon leaves a surgical instrument inside a patient, who develops a fatal infection. This is a mistake that never should have happened and is, in fact, referred to as a ‘never event.’

Of course, there is no price tag that can be put on a loved one’s life. But the void experienced by family has value in a civil action. Although money can’t change the circumstances, it can at least help in the way of seeking justice against the at-fault party responsible for a loved one’s death.

Types of Emotional Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

General types of damages that may be addressed in a wrongful death are mental anguish and emotional distress damages. A settlement or judgment will weigh the circumstances of the death and the impact it has on surviving family members to come up with a fair amount for all types of noneconomic damages. Some damages are more specific, depending on the relationship.

A spouse might be entitled to: 

  • loss of love;
  • companionship;
  • affection;
  • sexual relations;
  • comfort; and
  • moral support. 

For children, wrongful death claims can address loss of: 

  • parental protection;
  • training;
  • guidance;
  • nurturing; and
  • advice. 

Some states have caps on noneconomic damages, particularly those stemming from a medical malpractice case. New York does not. So in some situations it could be the amount of those damages are even higher than those recovered for economic losses.

Other Damages That Could Be Included and How They are Disbursed

There is usually monetary loss when a loved one dies. One example is with medical bills.

A wrongful death claim may address any medical care or treatment related to the wrongful act: 

  • ambulance fees;
  • emergency room services; and
  • hospitalization. 

If the loved one contributed to the household financially, the loss of income can also be included in a claim. Lost earning capacity may be awarded from the date of death until the deceased’s anticipated age of retirement. These types of damages would be handled on a case-by-case basis, so it’s important to discuss them with a lawyer.

Another financial loss could be services provided by the deceased. If surviving family has to hire someone to perform certain activities—such as housework or taking care of the children—these unexpected costs could also be included.

The disbursement of wrongful death damages is based on pecuniary loss as well as intestate laws in New York. Priority is given first to the spouse. If there are children, however, the spouse gets $50,000 and half of the balance of the estate. The remaining amount is divided equally among the children. If there isn’t a spouse, children are given priority. From there it could go to parents, siblings and other relatives.

Talk to an attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates if you lost a loved one and wish to discuss emotional distress and pain and suffering damages. Call 800-550-0000 or use out contact form to set up a consultation.

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