What Damages Might Be Recoverable After a Wrongful Death?
When a loved one dies, no amount of money can ever replace him or her. If the loss was unexpected, though, seeking compensation may be the only way for your family to maintain your financial security. This is especially true if you relied on the deceased for income, benefits, and/or household services.
Thankfully, you may be able to file a claim in pursuit of said damages. If the death could’ve been prevented had someone exercised reasonable care, you can take action against the negligent party.
While filing a wrongful death claim won’t bring your loved one back, it could at least allow you to maintain your standard of living in the aftermath. In South Dakota, a successful wrongful death claim can yield compensation for two kinds of damages: those that are available to surviving family members and those that are available to the estate.
Damages that surviving family members are entitled to pursue include:
- Any inheritances they would have received had the deceased continued earning money;
- The loss of comfort, companionship, love, advice, guidance, moral support, and affection they incurred as a result of the death; and
- The value of the household services and domestic help the deceased would’ve continued providing had he or she lived.
As for damages that the estate can recover, they include:
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Medical expenses associated with the final injury or illness; and
- The income the deceased would’ve reasonably expected to earn over the course of his or her career had he or she lived to retirement.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the fatal accident, the family may also be entitled to a punitive award. Whereas the compensatory damages listed above reimburse plaintiffs for their losses, punitive damages penalize defendants for conduct that was fraudulent, oppressive, grossly negligent, or intentionally harmful.
How Long Does My Family Have to Take Action Following a Wrongful Death in the Family?
Because going to court can be a hassle, most wrongful death claims are settled. As long as the plaintiff presents sufficient evidence of both liability and damages, the defendant is usually willing to negotiate.
If the opposing party has reason to challenge the claim, though, arriving at a satisfactory settlement could prove impossible. Should this be the case, the family of the deceased may have no choice but to file a formal lawsuit.
In South Dakota, the standard statute of limitations for wrongful death actions is three years. That means most families have three years from the date on which the deceased passed to commence the proceedings. As there are a few exceptions that can shorten this deadline, however, it’s wise to consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Speak with a Rapid City Wrongful Death Attorney
At Beardsley, Jensen & Lee, PLLC, we understand the devastating toll that an accidental death can take on the whole family. If your loved one died because another party was reckless or negligent, our compassionate team will help you gather the evidence needed to seek compensation for the damages left in the wake of the loss. Call 605-721-2800 or complete the Contact Form on our website to schedule a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer in Rapid City.
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