Legal Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits

December 26, 2016 — by Mark T. Flickinger, JD
Tags: Wrongful Death Damages

Scales, a gavel, and a law bookWrongful death lawsuits are often quite exhausting and heartbreaking. The lawyers at Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton know how difficult these cases can be, which is why we take great care in helping clients through these demanding times. So many people throughout the Provo area have benefited from our legal assistance and commitment to strong counsel and representation.

During wrongful death lawsuits, many clients have questions about the legal damages they can seek in their case. Let's cover the basics and break down what damages are.

The Pain of Losing a Loved One

If you lose a loved one due to another person's negligent actions or failure to act, this can cause a great deal of heartache. The death was potentially preventable, whether it occurred during an auto accident, a severe work injury, or as a result of a doctor's mistake. Whatever the case may be, it's important that the negligent party be held accountable for their actions. A lawyer is crucial for seeking justice and obtaining damages for the surviving family members of the deceased.

How Legal Damages Work

Damages refer to a legal award (often money) given to an individual for injury, material loss, or the death of a loved one. This monetary compensation is common in civil cases.

Types of Damages

There are two types of legal damages:

  • Compensatory Damages – Compensatory damages are intended to cover actual financial or material losses that were related to an accident or harmful incident. This may include property damage, lost wages, medical expenses, funerary expenses, and so forth.

  • Punitive Damages – Punitive damages are damages that punish the negligent party for their actions. This is not tied to an actual loss but rather the egregiousness of the negligence and the amount of harm it caused.

It is not uncommon to seek both compensatory and punitive damages in a legal case.

An Example of Compensatory Damages

Say that a woman's husband is killed in an auto accident. The auto accident was caused by a large truck operated by a driver who had not been sleeping while on the road and was inattentive, causing a fatal auto collision.

Compensatory damages in this case would cover the funerary costs, any emergency medical expanses, the lost wages of the husband, cost of damage to the vehicle, lost wages/income from the husband, emotional pain and suffering, legal fees, and so forth.

Calculating Compensatory Damages

Since compensatory damages are tied to actual losses, it is generally easy to calculate them. Bills and receipts can be added together, and wages or future expenses can be estimated with a fair amount of accuracy.

An Example of Punitive Damages

Let's continue to use the fatal auto accident scenario above to discuss punitive damages. Punitive damages will be sought against the truck driver and the trucking company for failing to act responsibly. Proper rests and breaks could have potentially prevented the accident from occurring. The punishment will attempt to deter future actions like this from occurring, and will be added to the compensatory damages.

Calculating Punitive Damages

Since punitive damages are not linked to anything actual or material, calculating them can be more difficult. In many cases, similar lawsuits are consulted to offer a fair range for punitive damages. Again, the egregiousness of the incident will typically determine the amount sought.

Contact the Lawyers of Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton

For more information about your legal options following the loss of a loved one, be sure to contact our team of attorneys today. The law firm of Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton is here to help you in your time of legal need.