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Types of compensation recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit

March 2007

A wrongful death lawsuit maintains that a decedent was killed as a result of the negligence (or other liability) on the part of the defendant. It also states that the surviving dependents or beneficiaries are entitled to monetary damages as a result of the defendant’s conduct.

The following types of damages are considered in a wrongful death case:
  • Immediate expenses associated with the death including medical and funeral.
  • Expenses for the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the person who died related to the injury resulting to death
  • Sorrow, mental anguish which includes loss of companionship, comfort and guidance
  • The expected loss in income of the person who died
  • The expected loss of services, protection, care, and/or assistance which the person who died provided to the survivors/beneficiaries
  • Loss of victim’s anticipated earnings in the future until time of retirement or death
  • Loss of benefits caused by the victim’s death (pension, medical coverage, etc.)
  • Loss of inheritance caused by the untimely death
  • Pain and suffering, or mental anguish to the survivors
  • Loss of care, protection, companionship to the survivors
  • General damages

In Minnesota

The Minnesota legislature decided to compensate survivors/beneficiaries for the following types of damages:

  • Sorrow, mental anguish, and loss of solace which includes loss of society, companionship, comfort and guidance
  • Any reasonably expected loss in income of the decedent suffered by the survivors/beneficiaries
  • Any reasonably expected loss of services, protection, care, and/or assistance which the decedent provided to the survivors/beneficiaries
  • Expenses for the care, treatment and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death
  • Reasonable funeral expenses

Depending on the jurisdiction, some of the listed damages may be barred or restricted by statute. Also, some of the listed damages may be hard to prove and thus be considered too speculative by the court. Consequently, they may be struck or restricted. Punitive damages may require a higher level of proof.

In certain cases, plaintiffs may be able to recover interest calculated from the time of death, the time the damages were incurred, or from the time of lawsuit filing. Finally, most of the damages for future loss (such as the victim’s anticipated earnings) will be reduced to "present value.”
In times of grief it is obviously difficult for family members to understand the importance of a prompt investigation of the circumstances of death, preservation of evidence and identification of responsible parties.
If you’ve been affected by a wrongful death, your well being comes first. Your rights are next. At Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben, we bring more than 40 years of experience representing victims of wrongful death. Our firm has successfully represented and fought for clients in thousands of wrongful death cases. Call  612-377-7777 or toll free at 1-800-752-4265 today for a free consultation.

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