Who can pursue wrongful death claims in Indiana?
No matter if negligence was a contributing factor or not, the death of a child always feels wrong. But under Indiana law, families and survivors are entitled to pursue a civil case to hold responsible parties accountable in certain instances of a child’s wrongful death. Let’s explore the finer points of the law as it relates to these cases.
What is the Legal Definition of Wrongful Death?
Under the law, a wrongful death occurs when someone else’s negligence is directly responsible for the death. This could be a fatal car or trucking accident caused by distracted driving, a defective toy or product that isn’t appropriately labeled, or causes toxicity or fire, or even a death that happens on someone’s property like a swimming pool. The circumstances and story of the death are different from case to case, but the unifying factor is that someone else’s failure to use care is responsible for the tragedy.
Indiana Child Wrongful Death Law
Indiana wrongful death law defines a “child” as a viable fetus or an unmarried person without dependents, who is either under age 20 or under age 23 and still in school.
In cases when a minor has died, the parent(s) or guardian(s) of the child must bring the case to court themselves. This is different from an adult wrongful death case, where a legal estate must be established to bring the case separate from any one individual in the family.
If parents/guardians are married, they both must be joined to the lawsuit, even if only one of them files the claim. The same is true if parents are divorced and the non-custodial parent wants to file the claim; the custodial parent must be joined to the lawsuit. Being joined to the suit essentially means that the ruling in the case will apply to both parents, meaning the same case cannot be filed twice.
Indiana Code § 34-23-2-1 defines the damages that can be sought after the child’s wrongful death:
- Expenses related to healthcare and hospitalization directly related to the cause of death
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Uninsured debts like student loans or other debts now owed by the parent
- The loss of love and companionship
- The expense of loss of services if the child worked in the family business
- Expenses for counseling and therapy for surviving parents and siblings
- Expenses for the administration of the estate, including attorney fees
How Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Represent a Child’s Family?
Some of the damages defined under the law are easy to put a dollar amount on, like the medical bills and funeral expenses. But where the attorneys at Bennett Boehning & Clary focus our attention is on communicating the experiencing of the lifelong emotional losses that result from a child’s death. It is impossible to really put a dollar amount on the loss of the child’s relationship and the lifelong love they would give to parents and family. Through witness testimony and other evidence, we seek to tell the story in a way that does justice to the memory of the lost.
No amount of money awarded in a settlement can restore the harm done when a child is wrongfully killed by someone else’s negligence. But these cases do award families compensation not only for the expenses of healthcare, burial, and legal fees, but also for the emotional toll of the experience, including the counseling and healing that must be done by the survivors.
The personal injury attorneys of Bennett, Boehning & Clary have the experience and compassion to support you through this time. We believe that every case is unique and can be decided on tiny details. Reach out to us at 765-742-9066 if you need an advocate and someone to fight for you.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.