When a loved one is taken and their death is caused by the negligence of another person, people experience a range of emotions. From grief and rage to the need for justice, those who’ve lost a close relative know that something vital and irreplaceable has been taken from them.
In each state, a wrongful death statute governs how families of lost loved ones can recover damages for their losses by filing a lawsuit against the culpable party for a wrongful death. Those losses are most often made up of the lost financial support resulting from a loved one’s death, as well as the pain and suffering the accompanies the loss of a loved one.
While it may be of little consolation, a wrongful death lawsuit can also help deter in the future the recklessness that resulted in your loved one’s death. In that way, their death can have some meaning.
Wyoming’s Wrongful Death Statute
Each state takes a different approach to how wrongful death cases can be litigated. Essentially, wrongful death lawsuits are tort (injury) claims brought on behalf of a deceased individual by their family. The deceased individual’s estate can collect damages and so can individual family members for their personal pain and loss.
The full statute can be found in Title 1 Code of Civil Procedure Chapter 38 of the Wyoming Statutes. A family has two years after the death of their loved one to file a lawsuit against a culpable party.
In Wyoming, wrongful death actions are brought by a single personal representative of the deceased’s estate. Others can be named in the lawsuit as those who have suffered significant emotional or economic injuries due to their loved one’s death. These include spouses, children, parents, or any individual who is financially or otherwise dependent on the deceased.
The majority of losses pursued in a wrongful death action are non-economic damages. In other words, damages related to the emotional trauma and grief experienced by the plaintiffs.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit can be divided into two categories. Those are damages on behalf of the victim’s estate and personal damages suffered by individual loved ones. The victim’s estate can collect damages for:
- The deceased’s medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses;
- Lost wages and income that the deceased would have earned had they remained alive;
- Pain and suffering the deceased suffered as a result of their injuries;
- And any other costs related to the deceased person’s death or injuries.
In addition to those, depending on their relationship to the deceased, individual family members may recover damages for their grief and financial injuries.
For instance, a spouse may collect damages for the loss of companionship and the loss of consortium. Children and dependents can collect damages for loss of financial support and moral guidance. Parents may also collect damages for their grief.
Common Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Wrongful death actions can be filed under a number of different tort/injury theories. Some of the most common are:
- Traffic accident liability,
- Commercial trucking liability,
- DUI Accidents,
- Medical malpractice lawsuits,
- Slip and fall accidents,
- Negligent security liability,
- And product liability.
Each of these types of cases is litigated according to certain rules that are laid out by state and federal statutes. Regardless of how your loved one was taken from you, Olson Law Firm has the expertise to take your case to trial or secure a settlement from the at-fault party to help make you whole.
Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death Suits
In some cases, a plaintiff or plaintiffs may be awarded punitive damages in Wyoming. Punitive damages are different than the compensatory damages that are listed above.
The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant for malicious or extremely reckless conduct. Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant is found to be guilty of gross negligence. Those who are grossly negligent show a casual disregard for the rights and safety of others, engage in behavior that they know can pose a substantial risk of serious injury or death, and choose to act in this manner anyway.
One very high-profile case in which plaintiffs were awarded punitive damages were the Takata Airbag lawsuits that claimed the lives of 24 people around the globe. Since Takata knew the airbags were defective, quietly settled lawsuits filed against them under seal, and refused to issue a recall when it became apparent the product was dangerous, Takata was hit for punitive damages in the class action filed against them.
Talk to a Wyoming Wrongful Death Attorney
If your loved one has been taken from you due to the negligence or malice of another individual, you and the estate of your loved one are entitled to recover damages for their death. While the money will never fill the void in your life left by a loved one’s death, the money can help to cover the financial impact resulting from your loved one’s absence. A lawsuit will also send a message to the company or individual who acted negligently, and hopefully prevent the same thing from happening to someone else.