If a loved one has been killed due to the negligence of another individual or corporation, nothing will bring that person back. Unfortunately the only recourse available to a family in a Michigan wrongful death case is to recover money from the person or corporation responsible for their death. Therefore, the element of wrongful death damages is an important topic for families to understand when going through the painful litigation process. We will try to explain the damages that may be available to a plaintiff in a wrongful death case. Remember that every case has different facts and this is not a “one size fits all” explanation.
There are a wide range of damages available to those who have been harmed by the negligence of an individual or corporation resulting in a wrongful death. All damages must be proven and presented to the trier of fact and judge. Some damages may be more difficult to prove than others so it is imperative that you retain an attorney with experience demonstrating the value of damages and illustrating the pain and suffering that has been endured by wrongful death family members.
The following are examples of some of the damages that may be available in a Michigan wrongful death case. The facts and circumstances of your case may warrant additional damages not considered here:
- Medical Expenses
- Funeral and Burial Expenses
- Conscious Pain and Suffering
- Loss of Society and Companionship
- Loss of Financial Support
- Loss of Services
- Loss of Gifts and Valuable Gratuities
- Loss of Parental Training and Guidance
- Loss of Expected Inheritance
- Hedonic Damages
A Michigan wrongful death case can cause family members to incur medical, nursing and hospital expenses. This can also include the costs to respond to an automobile accident with ambulances, hospital helicopters and their team members. If you are getting notices to pay medical expenses, you need to make sure to document these requests and get them to your wrongful death attorney immediately.
An unfortunate reality for many families in Michigan is an inability to pay for the funeral expenses of a loved one after a tragic loss. However, if there is a wrongful death case that is either anticipated or pending, a family can attempt to have all of the costs and expenses related to funeral and burial reimbursed by the negligent individual or corporation.
Conscious Pain and Suffering
If there was any delay between the accident and resulting death of your loved one, you may need to make a claim for their conscious pain and suffering. There are legal ramifications to making a claim for these damages. We have more information about these damages here.
Loss of Society and Companionship
When you lose a close family member, the loss is immeasurable. Loss of society and companionship damages are very difficult to quantify, but we can look at the relationship between the deceased and family members. We have written more on these damages here.
Loss of Financial Support
Another reality faced by Michigan families is that a loved one may have been providing all of the financial support for them while they raise children, get an education, or recover from an accident or illness. This is a very complicated and complex claim for damages as wages, life expectancy, taxes, etc. You can read more here.
Loss of Services and Economic Loss
This item of damages is often overlooked by many attorneys. Any family with a stay-at-home mother or father knows that there is a great deal of value for their services. You can read more about this and case law that can guide your claims here.
Any time a death occurs it leaves a hole in the lives of those left behind. However, there may not always be dependents that can claim a loss of support. There is an intrinsic value of a human being’s life. A Michigan wrongful death attorney may be able to use experts or present a case using government statistics to show a trier of fact that there is a value to life that was taken away and needs to be compensated.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) looks at the value of a worker in certain programs which can be as much as $3.5 million. There may also be other business and government statistics that can be found to demonstrate the value of an individual’s services, the enjoyments in life and living all together. In Michigan, these damages would fall under the phrase “fair and equitable, under all the circumstances”. Many times testimony is used to support loss of society and companionship claims for damages.
§3.26 A development in wrongful death damages that is gaining both popularity and controversy throughout the country is hedonic damages. These damages compensate for the intrinsic value of the decedent’s life. Elements of proof might focus on the value of the individual’s services, the enjoyments in life, or life itself. Other methods of valuing a life include the use of business or government statistics. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) assigns a $3.5 million price tag to the life of a worker in certain programs. These damages are particularly helpful to the plaintiff in cases where the decedent does not leave dependent kin to claim loss of support.
There are no reported Michigan appellate cases discussing hedonic damages. Interestingly, circuit court reports on use of hedonic damages have focused on the scientific reliability of expert hedonic testimony under MCL 600.2955 rather than the appropriateness of the damage under the WDA. Until appellate guidance is received, claims for hedonic damage are best used as one type of circumstantial evidence of a value of loss.
Fairness and Equity
As we mentioned above, the Michigan civil jury instructions and Michigan wrongful death act have a “catch all” provision. This allows creative Michigan wrongful death attorneys to make a claim for additional damages that fall under the “fair and equitable, under all the circumstances” clause. Every wrongful death case has its own facts and circumstances that lend themselves to some creative damages that are unique to the family seeing reimbursement for their loss.
If you are contemplating a wrongful death action on behalf of a family member, schedule a free wrongful death consultation today. Call (269) 342-9900 to speak with the attorneys at Ford & Murphy P.C.