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What types of recoveries can a wrongful death lawsuit bring?

Losing a loved one is never easy. However, it can be especially heartbreaking when the loss is sudden, unexpected, and caused by the negligence of another. In addition to having to cope with a sense of extreme emotional loss, families of those wrongfully killed often have to deal with the financial realities of their situation. Therefore, it may be helpful for these individuals to better understand what types of damages are recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit.

The most prevalent type of recovery from these types of lawsuits is for pecuniary loss, meaning financial loss. Juries often look to actual losses, which often include medical expenses and funeral costs. However, it is important to look at the deceased individual's life at the time of death. If he or she was a wage earner who had dependent children, for example, then a jury may also award his or her family lost income as well as compensation for loss of parental guidance. Therefore, it is important for those bringing a wrongful death claim to assess the deceased's age, earning capacity, life expectancy, and health in order to get a clear picture of just how much financial harm was done.

Surviving family members may also be able to recover punitive damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. These damages are awarded when the deceased's death was caused by malicious wrongdoing. The purpose is to punish the wrongdoer and to deter others from acting similarly, thereby keeping others safe from similar harm. It is important to note that while a jury decides the amount of damages to award to a surviving family, a court may adjust that figure.

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in many circumstances, particularly those that involve a fatal accident or medical malpractice. Though the process may be long and complicated, a Maryland attorney can help surviving family members fight for what is in their best interests.

Source: Findlaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed on July 21, 2014

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