What happens if a person dies as a result of another's misconduct?
If an injury suffered results in the death of a person, then that person's estate may assert a wrongful death claims. A wrongful death claim occurs when the injured party, rather than having simply suffered personal injury, has actually died as a result of the misconduct of the defendant. A wrongful death claim may be based upon a negligence theory, a breach of warranty theory or an intentional tort theory such as assault and battery.
Wrongful death claims are a fairly recent phenomenon. Common law did not recognize wrongful death claims on the theory that once a person had died, there was no amount of money that could compensate for the loss. As such, a person's claim died with him or her. However, over the years, the state legislatures have come to recognize that even though death may bring an end to the suffering and damages incurred by the decedent, there may be persons left behind who have been damaged and may continue to be damaged in the future as a result of the passing of the decedent.
Every state has its own wrongful death statute that defines exactly what damages are recoverable under the wrongful death act. Typically the damages recoverable are damages consisting of solace and grief experienced by the survivors, loss of earnings suffered by the dependents from the decedent's subsequent inability to generate income, any medical expenses incurred by the decedent, and funeral expenses.
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