What Compensation is Available for Surviving Family Members of Wrongful Death Victims in Utah?

No amount of money can undo the pain and sorrow that follows a family member’s death, or take back a fatal accident that has already happened.  While it is impossible to ever truly “compensate” the loss of an irreplaceable human life, the compensation which may be obtainable through a wrongful death lawsuit can help ease the financial hardships that so often result from the untimely loss of a family member, especially if he or she was providing support for children or other dependents.  In this article, Salt Lake City wrongful death attorney Darwin Overson will cover some basic information about recovering compensation as the surviving spouse or relative of a fatal accident victim in Utah.

Who is Entitled to Compensation in a Utah Wrongful Death Case?

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A death is wrongful when it is caused by negligence.  Negligence means failing to take the normal, reasonable safety measures necessary to prevent or minimize the risk of a foreseeable accident.  For example, a doctor who makes a medication error could potentially be considered negligent, leading to a Utah medical malpractice lawsuit.  To give another example, a driver who runs a red light and causes a fatal intersection accident in Salt Lake City could also be considered negligent.  Car accidents, slip and fall accidents, drowning, and poisoning are also common causes of unintentional death.

In order to recover compensation – not just in a wrongful death case, but in any type of claim or lawsuit involving fatal or nonfatal injuries – the claimant or plaintiff must prove that the death of the decedent was caused by negligence.  Proving negligence can be a challenging endeavor, but a skilled and experienced wrongful death lawyer will know how to craft the strongest legal strategy based on the available facts and evidence.

Under state law, only certain people are entitled to recover compensation following a wrongful death.  These people include the decedent’s surviving:

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Spouse

You can read about this topic in greater detail in our article on the deadline for a wrongful death lawsuit in Utah.

What Types of Losses and Expenses Can Surviving Spouses and Relatives Be Compensated For?

Surviving spouses and relatives may recover various damages (types of compensation) in a Utah wrongful death case.  Some, called economic damages, are financial in nature.  Others, called non-economic damages, deal with the survivors’ grief and emotional anguish.  Examples of economic and non-economic damages recoverable in a wrongful death case could include:

  • Burial expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of consortium/companionship
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of parental support, in cases where there are children
  • Loss of pension benefits
  • Loss of the decedent’s earnings, including projected future earnings
  • The survivors’ pain and suffering

While they serve different purposes, economic and non-economic damages both belong to the same, broader category of compensatory damages, so named because they serve only to compensate the victim.  There is also another category of damages called punitive damages.  In addition to compensating the plaintiff like compensatory damages, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant.  Because punitive damages are meant as a punishment – as well as a deterrent against future repeats of the same dangerous behavior – they are only recoverable in situations where the defendant’s wrongdoing was especially extreme or egregious.

The primary purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is compensating the surviving family members for their hardships.  A survival action, which is similar to but different from a wrongful death action, allows for the surviving family to recover damages that the victim would have been entitled to had he or she survived – for example, the pain and suffering he or she experienced as a result of the injuries.

Are There Limits on the Amount of Compensation Family Members Can Recover?

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Many states limit the recovery of damages for pain and suffering, otherwise known as non-economic damages or general damages.  However, Utah is unique in that there are no limits or caps on non-economic damages in wrongful death cases.  In fact, courts have ruled that such caps are unconstitutional.  Economic damages are not capped in Utah, either.

Utah’s absence of damages caps (restrictions on compensation) means there is no pre-determined limit to the amount of compensation surviving loved ones can recover for financial and non-financial losses.  The jury will attempt to arrive at a reasonable figure by taking into consideration all details and circumstances surrounding the case.  Your wrongful death attorney will fight to maximize the amount of compensation you can receive.

Call Our Weber County Wrongful Death Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you lost a loved one to the careless acts of another person, such as a doctor, driver, or babysitter, you have a right to get answers for what happened.  If your family member’s death was caused by negligence, the responsible person or business should be held accountable.

To talk about your family’s situation in a private legal consultation completely free of charge, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143.  We can help answer your questions and talk about the next possible steps.  Wrongful death lawyer Darwin Overson claims in the Salt Lake City area and throughout the state of Utah.

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