If a family member has been killed due to the carelessness and negligence of another person, business or corporation, relatives of the deceased my bring a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This blog answers the following two questions:
- Which family members can file wrongful death claim?
- What are the types of damages that can be recovered?
Persons Entitled to Bring the Lawsuit
Idaho Code § 5-311 states that such suits can be brought by the decedent’s spouse, children stepchildren and parents. A claim can also be brought by any blood relative and adoptive brother and sisters if those persons were financially dependent on the deceased.
Damages That May Be Recovered
These persons can seek monetary compensation for both ‘economic damages’ and ‘non-economic damages.’
“Economic damages” are those harms based on quantifiable dollar amounts such as hospital and doctor bills. They also include such items as:
- funeral and burial expenses
- loss of the deceased’s financial support to family members who relied on the deceased for this support. This item can be a huge component in a wrongful death case. For example, if a 40 year old man earned $50,000 per year, and his anticipated work life would be to age 65, then the damages under this category would be $1,250,000.
- the loss of the value of household services of the deceased. This category would include items such as the estimated value of performing household chores, maintenance of the home, etc.
‘Non-economic’ damages are those that are not easily calculated with any degree of precision. These include the loss of the “care, comfort and society” of the deceased. This is the legal terminology. It means the profound loss of a loved one, for which no amount of money can truly compensate. As a result of an Idaho statute passed in 2004, such damage claims can be no greater than $250,000 per person, with increases allowed reflecting inflation.
Damages That Cannot Be Recovered
In a personal injury case involving a living person, a significant component of damages is the pain and suffering caused by an injury. However, Idaho is unique in that it does not allow recovery for the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased. Such pain and suffering can be horrific in cases of persons burned to death in a fire, for example. This prohibition on pain and suffering damages can be a serious bar to suing a nursing home guilty of severe neglect of the elderly leading to the death of such a person. Because persons living in a nursing home are not wage earners, the wrongful death claim will obviously not include loss of income. Therefore, since pain and suffering damages may not be assessed by the court, the adult children of elderly parents who die from severe neglect in a nursing home may be left without any practical legal remedy if the deceased already had a short life expectancy.
Another gap in Idaho wrongful death damages is a provision of the law that states that damages may not be recovered for the grief family members experience from the death of a loved one. Such grief may persist for years yet, no matter how severe, may not be the subject of a damage award in an Idaho wrongful death lawsuit.