Losing a loved one always feels wrong but when the death was sudden, unexpected, and caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, the shock and grief can be overwhelming. Adding to the distress may be the financial consequences of the loss, especially if the loved one who passed was a family provider. If your family member died due to a preventable injury in Connecticut, and the injury directly resulted from the actions of another individual or business, the party at fault for the loss is responsible for damages. A claim against the appropriate insurance policy typically pays compensation for damages.
If you’ve recently suffered the loss of a close family member, you may be wondering how the wrongful death process works in Connecticut.
Financial compensation won’t bring the loved one back, but it can ease financial burdens, give your deceased family member a voice, and achieve a sense of justice so you and your family can focus on moving forward.
If your loved one died because of another’s actions or negligence, the death was wrongful—or one that wouldn’t have occurred if the at-fault individual or business had taken reasonable measures to prevent harm to others. Common wrongful death claims in Connecticut include:
Many states allow immediate family members of a deceased loved one (decedent) to personally file a wrongful death claim. Often this is a spouse, adult child, or parent. While those family members still benefit from the claim, Connecticut laws require the executor of the decedent’s estate or will to file the claim on behalf of the loved one’s immediate family. If the decedent doesn’t have a will or estate plan, a close family member must petition the court and the court then assigns a family member as a representative to file the claim.
Filing a wrongful death claim is complex and requires evidence. Once your family has a representative in charge of the claim, they should choose an experienced wrongful death attorney to represent the family in the claim and deftly navigate this unique area of law to maximize the chances of a swift resolution and ample compensation. Your attorney will diligently investigate all aspects of the death to prove liability. Courts require proof of the following in a wrongful death case:
Damages in wrongful death claims include both economic damages and non-economic damages like grief and anguish to the family members.
A seasoned wrongful death attorney can carefully calculate the damages associated with the untimely death to maximize the amount of compensation available. Common damages claimed in wrongful death cases in Connecticut include:
A New Haven wrongful death attorney can carefully calculate amounts for each economic and non-economic damage in order to compel the insurance company to pay out a substantial sum in a settlement or court award.
Wrongful death claims are typically filed first directly to an insurance company; for instance, to the liable party’s auto insurance if the family member died in a car accident or a doctor’s medical malpractice insurance if they died as a result of malpractice. Your attorney will document the evidence of liability and a list of damages and send it to the insurance company in a demand package naming a settlement amount you are seeking for your losses.
In the best-case scenario, the insurance adjuster assigned to the case simply approves the claim and pays out the full amount calculated for damages. More often, the insurance company begins negotiating terms with your attorney until they reach an amount that you and your family are comfortable with. Only in about 5% of wrongful death claims does the case proceed into a lawsuit if the insurance company fails to pay out an acceptable amount on the claim or denies it completely. Insurance companies often place profits above paying out on claims according to their contracts. If this is the case, your attorney will file a lawsuit in the correct jurisdiction and within Connecticut’s statute of limitations. The state’s statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits is 2 years from the date of the death.
While court cases take longer to resolve than settlements, many times the amount of compensation family members receive from a positive jury verdict is higher than what they’d obtain through a settlement agreement.
If the decedent had a will in place, the executor of the will represents the family in the wrongful death claim and then oversees the fair distribution of the compensation among immediate family members, typically a spouse or adult children. If there is no will or estate plan in place, a judge decides not only on the family representative that files the claim but also to whom the compensation is distributed after the payout on the claim. Typically, they use a formula based on whether or not the decedent leaves behind a spouse and children.
A wrongful death claim can make a substantial difference in a family’s future after the loss of a loved one.