A personal injury claim has a lot in common with a wrongful death claim. Both types focus on negligence, which means that there was an owed duty in place to exert care and that this duty was breached, resulting in damage. Both personal injury and wrongful death claims focus around someone who suffered an injury. As a result of this injury, medical expenses will have been incurred, as well as a range of other economic damages. Yet, as similar as the two cases are, there are some very significant differences as well. The person who is able to bring the action forward is different in these cases. Additionally, the things that can be compensated are different as well.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
In a personal injury claim, an individual has been injured. This injury caused the person to seek medical treatment in order to address the injury. Once treatment has been completed, a legal representative can request copies of the medical records and will then demand the negligent party to compensate the injured party. Compensation can be awarded for three different things:
1. Any lost earnings, both past and future.
2. All medical bills relating to the injury, including future medical bills.
3. Pain and suffering, which is strictly regulated by statutes in each state.
Usually, lost wages will occur when the injured person is unable to return to work due to the injury. Calculations are made based on actual time off work and time that may still be lost as a direct result of the injury. The price of medical bills will be calculated by using medical invoices. If further treatment will be required, such as rehabilitation or therapy, the cost of this will be estimated. Medical professionals will have to project the cost of these treatments. Pain and suffering are more complicated, as a financial value has to be placed on perceived disruption and discomfort to the life of the injured party, as well as an inability to take part in certain activities as a direct result of the act of negligence.
A personal injury claim has to be brought forward by the injured party. Two exceptions exist, which is if the injured party was or is now mentally incapacitated, or is a minor. In that case, the legal guardian, spouse or parent may be able to make a claim. Furthermore, spouses may be able to make a separate loss of services claim if the injured party is no longer able to provide certain services or perform certain duties as a consequence of the injury.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim revolves around an injured party who died as a result of negligence. This person may have been given medical treatment, but there is no longer an issue around future treatment. Claims are based on:
1. Lost wages both during the time period the individual was incapacitated as a result of the injury, and loss of future earnings.
2. Medical treatment as a result of the injury that eventually lead to death.
3. Funeral and burial expenses.
Pain and suffering are not included, as the victim has died. Lost wages are calculated considering how long someone could have reasonably been expected to continue to work and the medical treatment is based on hospital receipts. Funeral expenses are also covered by receipts.
A big difference between the two cases is who can actually sue for damages. In a wrongful death case, it is brought forward by a representative of the estate of the deceased person. The goal of the damages is to provide financial assistance to the surviving relatives who would otherwise have relied on the decedent.
Can You Claim Both?
It is actually not uncommon for somebody to firstly file a personal injury claim, and for this to then turn into a wrongful death case. However, once someone passes away, no personal injury action can survive. Hence, pending action will automatically abate. The personal representative of the estate of the decedent will then become the plaintiff in the case.
Should You File a Wrongful Death Suit?
If you believe a loved one has died as a result of negligence, you may want to consider filing a suit. However, it is absolutely vital that you seek solid legal advice and that you work together with a qualified attorney. This is the only way you will be able to increase your chances of receiving the compensation you are entitled to. Another important thing to remember is that with both personal injury suits and wrongful death suits, a criminal charge may also be brought against the person or entity that was negligent. For instance, someone could be charged with assault, manslaughter or even murder. However, these cases are tried in a federal court and the object is to punish the wrongdoer. Personal injury and wrongful death cases are tried in a civil court and the aim is to compensate the injured party. For this reason, even if a person is acquitted of a crime in federal court, he or she may still be sued for personal injury or wrongful death damages in civil court by the injured party.