We read it about it constantly: a motorist killed in a car crash, a motorcyclist killed in a crash, a construction worker killed on the job site, a child dies because a toy becomes lodged in her throat or his head becomes wedged between the bars of his crib. As we have said before the purpose of the tort law (The law which helps people who have been hurt or killed by another person’s negligence) is accident, injury and death prevention. It is only when the law fails in its original purpose that we turn to its secondary purpose, compensation for the harmed or killed individual. When a person has been negligent (a person fails to use reasonable care when, for example they run a stop sign or a stop light, or fail to follow safety guidelines on the work site like OSHA rules and regulations. A person can be negligent and not mean the harm.) and injures or kills another person the negligent person is responsible for making up the harm to the injured or killed person. That’s what compensation means, to make up for.
In the case of the person who is killed because of the negligence of another, the law provides compensation through the “Wrongful Death Act”. This is a set of statutes (laws enacted by the legislature) which creates the ability of the killed person’s family to be compensated for that person’s death. Before this set of statutes was passed, there was no compensation for the death of a family member. If the breadwinner was killed, the family either made do, or they suffered economically. The law gave no remedy at all for the loss of the love the deceased person gave. The law used to be that if a child was negligently killed, the parents were entitled to nothing. In fact the law considered the parents lucky because they no longer had to pay for raising the child.
Recently, (in the law recently was within the last 50 years) the people of Indiana spoke out against the injustice of these laws. The Indiana legislature listened and passed the wrongful death act. The statutes can be found in title 34 of the Indiana Code. These statutes allow, as compensation for the death of a family member, the recovery of the medical bills for the dead persons last injury or illness, funeral and burial costs, lost support to the family the person would have provided in the way of lost wages or other support, finally the family is entitled to recover for the loss of affection love and guidance the person would have given the family. Take for example the preteen girl, who has all kinds of questions about becoming a woman. Her mother guides her, and teaches her, and helps her through the anxiety of that awkward time. The mother’s guidance has real value and her loss causes a real loss. The negligent person is responsible for making up for all those harms. Remember what your parents taught you, and what you teach your children, if you break something, you take responsibility and see that it is repaired. Asking the negligent person to do that is right and just.
A child’s loss for love and affection has been capped, In Indiana, at $300,000.00. This is an arbitrary amount set by the legislature. Look at your child, imagine the worst and tell me $300,000.00 is not insulting. However, that is the current state of the law. The statute allows for compensation for the adult without dependents. An adult, who dies without dependents (No children or spouse or other person who depends on him financially), the persons parents or non dependent children may be compensated for the loss of the deceased person’s love and affection. This is limited to $300,000.00.
Our office has more than 55 years of experience handling wrongful death cases. Please call us for advice in your time of need.
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