When a family member or loved one dies in a tragic accident, financial compensation is likely the furthest thing from your mind. However, if a third party caused the fatal incident, you could have grounds for a wrongful death claim.

With this type of lawsuit, the family can receive monetary damages for medical bills, lost future earnings and other financial costs associated with the individual’s death.

Rules for claiming wrongful death

In Indiana, the plaintiff must prove that the negligence of a person or business caused his or her family member’s death. Negligence means that the person acted or failed to act in a way that disregarded a necessary duty of care. For example, an individual who caused a fatal accident while driving drunk neglected his or her duty to operate a motor vehicle safely.

The state accepts wrongful death suits only from a representative of the deceased individual’s estate, but the court will determine how to award damages to children, spouses and other dependents. In the case of the death of a child, only the custodial parent or parents may file a wrongful death suit. The statute of limitations on this type of legal claim is two years from the date of death.

Available damages

If the wrongful death suit is successful, Indiana courts may award the family damages equaling:

  • The cost of the lawsuit
  • Projected salary and benefits the person would have earned
  • Medical costs associated with the fatal incident
  • Funeral expenses

The estate will receive the financial award directly and must use these funds to pay medical, funeral and legal bills. The estate must divide compensation for lost wages among eligible dependents.

Unlike in some other states, Indiana family members cannot receive damages for pain and suffering. In addition, the total award amount may not exceed $300,000. However, parents who have lost a child can claim damages for loss of love and companionship as well as counseling costs for the family (including siblings).