When a beloved family member passes unexpectedly, it always feels wrong to the surviving loved ones, but legally, a death is a wrongful death in Connecticut if it’s caused by another party’s gross negligence, egregiously reckless behavior, or intentional wrongdoing. A loved one’s death qualifies for a wrongful death claim in Connecticut if the circumstances of the death would have allowed them to file a personal injury claim had they survived the injury.
The majority of wrongful death claims in Connecticut stem from an act of negligence. Proving a wrongful death claim is a civil matter and requires proving negligence and liability through a preponderance of the evidence. A successful claim results in compensation for damages directly to the victim’s estate and then to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will, or those indicated by the Connecticut’s intestacy laws.
Understanding Liability in a Wrongful Death Case in Connecticut
When a family member passes due to the actions of someone else, the executor of the deceased individual’s estate, or a representative named by the court, may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Unlike criminal charges requiring a prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, civil courts in Connecticut require proof of liability for the death by a preponderance of the evidence—showing that it’s more likely than not that the defendant’s actions directly caused the death.
The executor or family representative in a wrongful death case must prove liability by demonstrating the following:
The at-fault party owed a duty of reasonable care to the victim and others to prevent injury and death—such as a driver’s duty to avoid distraction or drinking and driving, or a property owner’s duty to repair or address safety hazards on their property
They breached this duty through an act of gross negligence, egregious recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing
Their breach of duty directly caused the death
The injury victim and their estate sustained damages
When the plaintiff in a wrongful death case (the executor or family representative) proves liability, the court awards a wrongful death verdict, leaving the defendant responsible for providing compensation for the damages. This compensation typically comes from the defendant’s insurance policy. Payouts for wrongful death settlements or jury awards often come from an auto insurance policy, property liability insurance, or medical malpractice insurance depending on the cause of the death.
Common Damages in Connecticut Wrongful Death Claims
According to Connecticut’s wrongful death statutes, the victim’s estate gains compensation for damages in a successful wrongful death claim. Common damages awarded to the estates of decedents in Connecticut include the following:
The victim’s pain and suffering experienced before the death
Medical expenses the victim incurred before the death
Loss of income and loss of future earnings for the remainder of the decedent’s working years
Loss of retirement/pension plan contributions
Funeral and burial expenses
Loss of a lifetime of enjoyment of activities
When the representative in the claim is a spouse, they may also claim compensation for loss of consortium. Loss of consortium is a spouse’s loss of companionship, moral support, and physical and emotional connection with the decedent.
It often takes a skilled New Haven wrongful death attorney to prove liability and carefully calculate damages to help surviving family members get the most from their claim. While a successful wrongful death claim won’t bring a lost loved one back, it provides a sense of justice for the surviving loved ones.