Who Can File Wrongful Death in Indiana?
Like other states, Indiana has imposed laws on wrongful death claims, determining the damages the victims' families can recover and who can file a lawsuit.
These regulations also set how long affected parties have to file a wrongful death claim in Indiana civil courts.
Understanding Indiana laws can help plaintiffs build solid cases to fight for their legal rights and seek compensation if a loved one has lost their life due to someone else's actions.
According to Indiana's statutes, it is the death of a person caused by the wrongful acts or omissions of another individual or entity.
Unfortunately, many situations or events could end in wrongful deaths and set the stage for a lawsuit, such as medical malpractice, a negligent-based incident, or an intentional act.
Are Wrongful Death Claims Handled as Personal Injury Cases?
A wrongful death lawsuit is quite similar to a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, victims do not survive and cannot take legal action. Instead, someone else pursues a case on behalf of the deceased person.
Like most personal injury lawsuits, successful wrongful death cases are resolved through financial compensation or "damages" to the victims' survivors or estate.
Difference Between a Wrongful Death Lawsuit and a Criminal Homicide Case
Murders are determined by criminal intent and involve a violation of one or multiple laws, while wrongful deaths can be caused by accidents or negligent acts. The former is a criminal offense, but the latter is a civil action.
In this regard, criminal homicide is a type of wrongful death, but a wrongful death is not always murder. Additionally, criminal cases can result in different penalties, including jail time, fines, and probation.
In a criminal case, the defendant's guilt must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt." However, for wrongful death lawsuits, the accused's responsibility or liability is proven by a preponderance of the evidence.
The defendant in a wrongful death case is more likely to be considered liable for a person's passing.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Indiana – Who Can Do It?
As mentioned, Indiana has set laws determining who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, depending on whether the victim or "decedent" was an adult or child when they lost their life.
When there is a wrongful death of a child, the case must be filed by the parents. If they are divorced, the one who has legal custody of the minor must file the claim. According to Indiana law, a child is:
An unmarried individual younger than 20 years old
An unmarried individual without dependents who is younger than 23 years old and enrolled in an educational program, such as a career, in college, or technical school
A fetus that reached viability
In some cases, the wrongful death lawsuit may be brought by a child's legal guardian, including if the victim's parents are divorced or if their parental rights have been terminated.
While many states allow the deceased person's family members to file a wrongful death claim, Indiana has different regulations.
In this state, only a personal representative of the deceased person's estate, also known as "the executor," can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
How Long Do People Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Indiana?
There is a "statute of limitations" that defines the period in which wrongful death lawsuits must be filed. According to Indiana law, it is two years from the date the victim died.
In this state, the same deadline applies in cases involving adults or children. If their survivors or estate do not file the wrongful death lawsuit within two years, the court will likely refuse to hear their claims.
Seeking Compensation Through Wrongful Death Claims
Most of the time, the deceased person's survivors or estate file wrongful death lawsuits to hold at-fault parties accountable for their actions and pursue compensation. When cases are successful, the court awards "damages," which are, essentially, the plaintiff's claimed losses.
How Is Wrongful Death Compensation Distributed?
Indiana also has specific laws about the types of damages that affected parties can recover after a wrongful death accident. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions like, "Does Indiana limit damages for wrongful death?"
Wrongful Death Compensation for Child Decedent's Family
If the deceased person was a child, the victim's family may recover compensation for the following losses:
Loss of child's love and companionship
Loss of the child's services
Expenses related to the child's health care, including hospitalization and outstanding debts
Expenses related to the administration of the child's estate, such as attorneys' fees if they're reasonable
Reasonable counseling costs for the deceased child's parents or minor siblings who are struggling with the death
Wrongful Death Compensation for Cases Involving Unmarried Adults with No Dependents
When the deceased person is an unmarried adult with no dependents, the victim's parents, estate, or non-dependent children may recover the following damages if they file a wrongful death lawsuit:
Medical and hospital expenses
Funeral and burial costs
Loss of the deceased individual's love and companionship (Indiana law set a $300,000 cap for these damages)
In most cases, damages for hospital, medical, funeral, and burial expenses are awarded to the estate and are intended to cover these costs. The deceased person's parents or non-dependent children receive the remainder.
Unlike other states, Indiana has prohibited courts from awarding punitive damages or compensation for grief and future earnings to the deceased's parents or non-dependent children. In addition, those who file the wrongful death lawsuit must prove they had a substantial and genuine relationship with the victims.
Wrongful Death Compensation for a Married Victim's Surviving Dependents
If the deceased person was married, Indiana allows their survivors to recover compensation for the following damages and losses:
Medical and hospital expenses
Funeral and burial expenses
Loss of the deceased person's future earnings
Loss of the deceased person's guidance, training, affection, love, and care
Courts award compensation for medical, funeral, and burial expenses to the deceased person's estate to cover related costs. Other damages are awarded to the victim's dependent relatives.
Do the Deceased Person's Surviving Dependents or Personal Representative Need Help from a Wrongful Death Attorney?
Filing a wrongful death suit is a complex process. Claimants must prove that there was a wrongful act and that they are strongly related to the victims.
Additionally, those hoping to take legal action for the death of a loved one should also understand Indiana's wrongful death statutes.
Therefore, victims' loved ones expecting to file an Indiana wrongful death claim should seek help from wrongful death lawyers.
A seasoned Indiana wrongful death lawyer can help a victim's surviving spouse or dependent child understand their legal rights and recover compensation. They can also provide insight on Indiana Wrongful Death and Survival Action.
Call Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today and Get Guidance From an Indiana Wrongful Death Lawyer!
Need help to file a wrongful death claim? Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can help! Contact us today and get a free consultation.