The unexpected death of a loved one takes a devastating toll under any circumstances, but it’s especially difficult when someone else’s careless or reckless conduct caused your loved one’s death. You likely want to hold that person accountable for the tragedy, but you may not understand how. Who should you turn to when you want to obtain justice for a loved one and compensation to pay for the support you need?
The experienced Indianapolis wrongful death attorneys at the Law Office of William W. Hurst have represented hundreds of families throughout Indiana who have lost loved ones in tragic accidents. If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, or any other accident, then we want to help. Contact us today to learn more.
About the Law Office of William W. Hurst
Founded in 1981, the Law Office of William W. Hurst ranks among the best and most experienced personal injury law practices in Indiana. We only represent injured accident victims and the families they leave behind; we never defend offenders or other parties. That way, when you hire William (“Bill”) Hurst and his team, you know that you have someone on your side who is 100 percent committed to serving the interests of accident victims and their families, not big insurance companies.
Our team has a combined 70 years of legal experience, and we have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of our clients through settlements and jury verdicts. Our track record of success and professionalism has earned us numerous awards and recognition from the legal community. Still, the accolades we’re most proud of are the testimonials of our former clients, who praise our wisdom, honesty, compassion, and unwavering dedication to their personal needs and legal interests.
We Handle Wrongful Death Claims
At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, our legal team represents victims of all sorts of accidents and tragedies, including those that involve fatalities. As mentioned above, many of the matters we handle involve motor vehicle accidents, but our representation does not stop there. We also represent the families of victims of fatal nursing home abuse and of tragic accidents that happen because of dangerous conditions on someone else’s property—such as accidental drownings or falls.
We urge anyone whose family has been impacted by a tragic death to speak with us about potential legal rights. If you’ve experienced such a tragedy, you may have a claim related to your loved one’s passing without even realizing it. For example, some people do not think to call a wrongful death lawyer right after a loved one sustains an injury. They may wait until a loved one passes away, or they don’t connect the injury with the death. However, wrongful death claims are not limited to accidents involving an immediate loss of life. If someone sustains an injury, and those injuries lead to death later on, the family may still have a wrongful death claim.
Sometimes, wrongful death results from an intentional act of violence that attracts attention from law enforcement. It’s possible that the person who harmed your loved one will face criminal penalties, but it’s important to understand that the criminal law process is separate and distinct from seeking compensation for a wrongful death in civil court. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if the police have arrested someone for causing your loved one’s death, that you will automatically receive compensation without filing a civil claim. You will have to take separate legal action to recover any damages from the offending party.
About Wrongful Death Claims in Indiana
Under Indiana law, a wrongful death occurs “[w]hen the death of one is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another.” Any personal representative of the deceased (typically a surviving spouse, dependent child, or next of kin) may bring a legal action for damages as a result of a wrongful death. Under most circumstances, the legal action must be filed within two years from the date of the person’s death.
The damages recoverable for a wrongful death in Indiana depend upon whether the victim was an adult or a child when the tragic death occurred. The legal definition of a child is different from how you might normally understand that word, however. For purposes of a wrongful death action in Indiana, a child is any unmarried person who is either:
Less than twenty (20) years of age, or
Less than twenty-three (23) years of age and is enrolled in a postsecondary educational institution or a career and technical education school or program that is not a postsecondary educational program.
Indiana law also distinguishes between adults who are married and/or who have dependents, and those who are unmarried and have no dependents.
Damages Recoverable When the Victim Is an Adult
When the person who has died was married and/or had dependents, the damages potentially recoverable under Indiana law include, but are not limited to, reasonable medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses, as well as any lost earnings of the decedent resulting from the wrongful act that caused the person’s death. The damages award may also include punitive damages up to a maximum of three times the amount of compensatory damages or $50,000, whichever is greater. However, courts rarely award punitive damages, which are meant to punish egregious actions and deter future similar acts.
In contrast, when an unmarried individual without any dependents dies, the damages potentially recoverable under Indiana law include both:
- Reasonable medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses necessitated by the wrongful act or omission that caused the adult person’s death, and
- Loss of the adult person’s love and companionship, up to a maximum of $300,000.
In a wrongful death lawsuit that involves an unmarried victim with no dependents, damages cannot include compensation for the surviving person’s grief and also cannot include punitive damages.
Damages Recoverable When the Victim Is a Child
When the victim of a wrongful death is a child (as defined by Indiana law), different—and far more complicated—rules apply to the damages that a victim’s survivors may recover. Under Indiana law, those damages include compensation for:
- The loss of the child’s services
- The loss of the child’s love and companionship
- Paying the expenses of health care and hospitalization necessitated by the wrongful act or omission that caused the child’s death
- The child’s funeral and burial expenses
- The reasonable expense of psychiatric and psychological counseling incurred by a surviving parent or minor sibling required due to the death of the child
- Uninsured debts of the child, including debts for which a parent is obligated on behalf of the child
- The administration of the child’s estate, including reasonable attorney’s fees
The law imposes time periods and rules for the first two categories above that may limit who may recover those damages. It is important to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney to determine how these rules might apply to your individual situation.
Why You Must Seek Legal Help Soon After a Wrongful Death
Calling a lawyer usually isn’t a top priority for people mourning the loss of a loved one. It’s hard enough for many of them to get out of bed in the morning, let alone think about complicated legal matters. At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, we understand how difficult it is to face the pain of losing someone dear to you. We appreciate how speaking with a member of our team doesn’t feel like something you need to do right now, but through years of experience counseling others in your position, we can assure you that seeking legal help at this moment is an important step you should take. Below we discuss why.
There Is Only a Short Window of Time for Asserting Your Rights
Indiana law only allows the survivors of wrongful death victims two years to take legal action. That may seem like a long time, but in the legal world, it’s actually quite short. The consequences of missing this window of opportunity are severe. In most cases, missing the filing deadline means the total loss of any legal right to seek compensation.
The sooner you speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney, the lower your risk of missing an important deadline for asserting your rights to compensation.
Evidence Is Easiest to Obtain Soon After an Accident
Proving any kind of personal injury claim, especially one that involves a tragic death, requires collecting and presenting sometimes-large amounts of complicated, technical evidence. Moving quickly to obtain relevant evidence is often critically important, particularly in the following two categories:
- Physical, forensic, and eyewitness evidence of the accident in which your loved one perished can help establish the circumstances of the accident and why the person you are suing for damages should be held at-fault. However, physical and forensic evidence tends to get cleaned up and, frequently, thrown away after an accident, making investigation more and more difficult as time passes. Likewise, eyewitnesses’ memories tend to fade, which is why it’s so important to get their statements as soon as possible.
- Medical records and recollections of medical providers are often essential to prove that the injuries your loved one sustained in an accident caused his or her death. Although medical records usually get stored for long periods of time, the memories of medical providers can prove even more important for explaining to a judge or jury the nature and extent of your loved one’s injuries. It is important to move quickly to collect these statements.
With both categories of evidence above, the passage of time doesn’t just heighten the risk of losing that evidence, but also it makes it more difficult for your lawyer’s own experts to weigh in with their opinions in a timely fashion.
Insurance Companies Will Try to Take Advantage of You
When someone dies because of the actions of a person covered by an insurance policy, the at-fault party’s insurance company will not waste any time in starting an investigation and trying to limit its losses. As friendly and helpful as some insurance adjusters may seem, their job is to save their employer money. Instead, they will look for ways to pin blame for a tragic accident on your deceased loved one—which could limit the damages recoverable in a lawsuit, and they may maneuver to try and convince you to accept a quick settlement offer that limits the insurance company’s financial liability.
Do not accept any offers from an insurance company without first speaking with an experienced wrongful death attorney. Indiana wrongful death law is complicated, and insurance companies understand it far better than you do. A lawyer can level the playing field, protecting you from insurance company tactics that—if you fall for them—could damage your legal rights and your ability to obtain justice for your loved one.
Having an experienced wrongful death attorney on your side also comes with the added benefit of putting a buffer between you and the insurance companies. No one wants to deal with an insurance adjuster while grieving. Let an attorney handle those discussions while you take care of yourself and your family during this difficult time.
Speaking With an Attorney Is Free, Confidential, and Comes With No Obligation
At the Law Office of William W. Hurst, we offer a free and confidential consultation to anyone who has questions about taking legal action after the wrongful death of a loved one. After speaking with us, you have no obligation to hire us. However, if you do choose to retain us, we represent virtually all of our clients on a contingent fee basis, which means they do not pay us anything unless and until we recover damages on their behalf through a settlement or a court verdict.
Call Our Experienced, Compassionate Indianapolis Wrongful Death Lawyers
Do not wait to consult with the experienced, compassionate Indianapolis wrongful death lawyers at the Law Office of William W. Hurst after an accident or tragedy takes the life of your loved one. We know you are going through a difficult time and promise to treat you with the dignity and respect that any grieving party deserves. Our goal is only to help you seek justice and maximize your compensation. Money will not heal your tragic loss, of course, but it can help you regain your footing after a tragedy.
To learn more about how Bill Hurst and his team can help you and your family, call the Law Office of William W. Hurst at (317) 636-0808, or contact us online, to schedule your free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. Hablamos Español.