The Basics of Indiana Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Rachel N. Woloshin

Author: Rachel N. Woloshin

POST DATE: 7.1.21
Ccha  Personal Injury

Like all other states, Indiana has its own state laws regarding wrongful death claims. Indiana's wrongful death statute defines wrongful death as a situation in which "the death of one is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another."

One way to think of a wrongful death claim is to think of it as a personal injury lawsuit in which the injured person has died. Wrongful death claims are civil suits, which are meant to compensate (monetarily) the person who was harmed. There are, however, instances where criminal charges can be filed by the state based on the same events. For instance, if death is caused by a car crash in which the at-fault party was intoxicated, the state may file criminal charges against the driver. A criminal case is an entirely separate case from the wrongful death claim. To obtain civil, monetary damages for negligence, a personal representative of an estate must file a wrongful death claim, separate from the criminal case proceedings brought by the state.

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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Indiana?

A wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Because of their death, that individual is unable to serve as a plaintiff in their case, thus a personal representative brings the case on his or her behalf. A personal representative is someone who was either designated by the deceased in their will or estate plan prior to their death, or by a court if the decedent did not designate someone. A personal representative manages the estate of the decedent following their death.

In wrongful death claims involving children, cases must be filed by one or both of the child’s parents. If divorced, the claim must be filed by the parent who has legal custody of the child. If both parents are deceased or their parental rights have been terminated, the case must be filed by the child’s legal guardian.

Many types of accidents can have serious or fatal consequences. CCHA is versed in assisting with the following:

  • Wrongful Death
  • Catastrophic Personal Injury
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Prenatal Injury
  • Birth Injury
  • Nursing Home Liability and Injury
  • Motorcycle Injury
  • Bicycle Injury
  • Semi-Truck and Motor-Vehicle Accidents
  • Dog Bite Injury
  • Premises Injury
  • Construction Injuries
  • Work-Related Injuries

How long do I have to file a Wrongful Death Suit?

As with all civil lawsuits, Indiana wrongful death claims must follow the state’s strict statute of limitations — wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the decedent’s death. Failure to comply with statute of limitations may risk case dismissal and any chance for recovery of damages.

Damages in Indiana Wrongful Death Cases

Damages recoverable for wrongful death are dependent upon the status of the decedent and his or her survivors at the time of death. Indiana Code § 34–23–1–1 governs actions for wrongful death generally, Indiana Code § 34–23–1-2 applies specifically to actions for the wrongful death of an unmarried adult without dependents, and Indiana Code § 34–23–2–1 governs the wrongful death of a child.

Generally speaking, damages can be awarded to the deceased person’s spouse, children or other dependents, and are distributed in the same manner as the personal property of the deceased. These damages are intended to compensate the estate and support surviving family members as a result of the losses related to the death. A decedent’s estate may recover compensation for the following damages, if liability is established in the wrongful death case:

  • Funeral and burial expenses;
  • Medical and hospital expenses;
  • Cost of administering the estate;
  • Lost wages, future earning capacity, and benefits that the deceased would have earned had they survived the accident;
  • The value of future support that dependents could have reasonably expected to receive from the decedent; and
  • Loss of love, care, and affection that the dependents could have reasonably expected to receive from the continued life of the decedent.

Partner with CCHA

CCHA attorneys are dedicated to helping injury victims and their families move forward after a loss. We understand your pain and we want to help you find the best course of action to seek the compensation you deserve. We bring the same level of determination and commitment to our clients in every case – seeking full and fair compensation for the losses you suffer as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. After facing a serious injury themselves or the injury of a loved one, many of our clients come to us confused about where to turn. Our experienced team is here and available to help you move forward. Contact us to discuss next steps and for an ally in the legal process to come.