The sudden loss of a loved one after a devastating traffic accident is an experience no one can ever be fully prepared to face. For a child, parent, or life partner, the shock and grief that sets in may make it difficult to handle more practical matters for a time. The family will also feel the long-term implications of such a loss if the deceased was the primary wage-earner.
When the accident was due to the negligent actions of another driver, the realization that the loss was preventable creates yet another dimension of suffering to surviving loved ones. Fortunately, there are ways of finding closure that can give the family a sense that justice has been served while providing a secure way forward.
Every state has different laws regarding what the family may recover in a wrongful death claim. In Connecticut, compensation in a successful lawsuit can include the expenses from hospital visits and medical treatments, funeral arrangements, as well as loss of earning capacity, companionship and pain and suffering.
Proving negligence in a wrongful death claim
A criminal case requires the highest standard of proof to establish the defendant’s responsibility for causing the death of another. For this reason, most wrongful death suits occur in civil court. Where a criminal case requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, in a civil trial, all that is necessary is proof of guilt based on a preponderance of the evidence.
In Connecticut, it is the executor or administrator of the estate of the deceased who brings the action, not the family of the victim. They must prove certain elements in a wrongful death claim:
- the death of a person
- another’s negligence or intent to harm as the cause
- a financial injury that the family has sustained as a result
- the appointment of an executor of the estate of the deceased
The family will receive an award of compensation that is proportionate to the degree to which the defendant bears responsibility for their loved one’s death.
Compensation for the family
In Connecticut, the damages the estate of the decedent recovers in a wrongful death action go to the family according to the terms of the will. If there is no will, then the laws of intestacy determine the distribution of assets. However, it is important to act within two years the loved one’s death. While no monetary award can heal the pain of losing a loved one, it can allow the family a measure of comfort as they adapt to their changed lives.