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 LawIndiana 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