In all too many cases, accidents turn fatal, and family members are left not only with the grief that stems from the sudden and unexpected death of a loved one, but also with the bills and expenses that accompany that death. The most common type of compensation available through a wrongful death suit is pecuniary damages. These damages include loss of support, loss of services, loss of prospect of inheritance, medical expenses, and funeral expenses. A wrongful death almost always involves at least some of these damages. In many cases, a deceased individual incurs some medical bills prior to death, as well as conscious pain and suffering that the individual experienced prior to death. Loss of future income also is a possibility, particularly when the deceased individual is an adult who provided some or all of the income for a family. Furthermore, if the individual lives for a certain period of time prior to death, surviving family members also may have a claim for pre-death loss of society and companionship.
An additional type of damages that may be available in a wrongful death suit is damages for loss of society and companionship. However, Wisconsin law places limits on the amount of financial compensation that family members can receive through a wrongful death suit for this type of damages. These types of damages are limited to $500,000 per occurrence in the case of a deceased child, and to $350,000 per occurrence in the case of a deceased adult. These limits do not apply to pecuniary damages, including pre-death loss of society and companionship.
While these limits seem simple, the situation becomes much more complex when multiple parties are involved, or when the deceased individual was contributorily negligent – or at fault – to some degree. More specifically, if the deceased individual is more than 50% negligent in causing the accident, then the surviving family members of the deceased cannot recover damages under the wrongful death statute. The same logic applies to a person who is entitled to recover under the wrongful death statute. If that person is more than 50% contributorily negligent, then he or she cannot recover. For instance, if a husband is more than 50% responsible for an accident that results in his wife’s death, then he cannot recover under the wrongful death statute.
When an accident occurs and causes injury or death to a passenger or driver of another vehicle, the injured individual or the family of the deceased may have a claim for damages under Wisconsin law. However, determining which parties are liable for your losses and quantifying those losses is not always as straightforward as it might seem. Since it may take some time to sort these matters out, and you only have a limited timeframe in which to a file a personal injury or wrongful death claim, you should take immediate action to get legal help. Don’t delay in calling the Madison wrongful death attorneys of Boller & Vaughan to set up your free consultation today.