A successful wrongful death case will involve proving the following:
- The death of a pedestrian
- That the negligence or reckless actions of the defendant caused the pedestrian’s death
- That the surviving family members have suffered financially and emotionally
Surviving family members are entitled to bring a wrongful death claim in court for acts based on negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and especially for a deliberate wrongful act.
Damages in a pedestrian wrongful death claim are meant to compensate surviving family members for the loss of tangible and intangible forms of support they reasonably should have expected to receive had the victim not lost his or her life in a pedestrian accident.
How does the court determine how much surviving family members must be compensated for? The period of time during which these damages are recoverable is typically the shorter of:
- The decedent’s life expectancy when the wrongful act took place
- The life expectancy of the plaintiff when the wrongful act took place
When it comes to determining life expectancy, factors such as lifestyle, overall health, and job occupation will be taken into consideration by the court.
Economic Damages Vs. Non-Economic Damages
Economic damages may include:
- Financial support that the decedent would have reasonably contributed to his or her family throughout their lifetimes
- Loss of benefits or gifts the surviving family members would have reasonably expected to receive had the deceased not lost his or her life
- Funeral and burial costs
Non-economic damages may include:
- Moral Support
- Training and Guidance
- Sexual Relations
Non-economic damages will be awarded at the court’s discretion and are based on common sense and evidence. There is no set amount or tried and tested standard for determining a dollar amount.
A surviving family member cannot recover punitive damages in a wrongful death claim. There is only one exception, which is if the deceased was killed because of a felony homicide for which the defendant was already convicted. A surviving family member would have to file a “survival” cause of action on behalf of the decedent’s estate in order to recover punitive damages.