The loss of a loved one carries severe emotional and financial challenges. A wrongful death action in Connecticut imposes economic and noneconomic compensation against a negligent party for the death of a family member to address these challenges.
Damages are not awarded to punish or penalize a defendant but to provide just and reasonable compensation for losses caused by their negligence. Plaintiffs bear the burden of proving entitlement to damages by a fair preponderance of evidence.
A court, once it has determined liability, must determine the nature and extent of each injury or loss and whether the defendant’s negligence was the legal cause. Next, the court has to determine the amount of fair, just and reasonable compensation. Mathematical calculations are required for some determinations while others rely on the use of human experience and common sense.
Economic damages are compensation for monetary losses and expenses resulting from the defendant’s negligence. Reasonable and necessary medical care funeral expenses fall within these damages.
The value of the decedent’s lost earning capacity is also considered as economic damages. Lost earning capacity does not include deductions for the decedent’s living expenses taking into consideration that cash payments will be made. A jury may consider the decedent’s probable lifetime net earnings, general experience as a wage earner and qualifications for conducting a gainful occupation. The court should also consider that the decedent would have had to pay income taxes on any wages.
Noneconomic damages are comprised of compensation for the destruction of the decedent’s earning capacity to carry on and enjoy life’s activities in a way that the decedent would have done without dying. These activities include family, work, sports, recreation and other aspects of life.
Noneconomic damages also include compensation for the death itself. A court may also award damages for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
Parties who suffer the loss of a family member should promptly seek representation to help determine whether a party’s negligence led to the death and to obtain fair and just compensation. Legal assistance helps protect a party’s rights in settlement negotiations and court proceedings.
Source: State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, “Civil jury instructions: 3.4-7 Damages-wrongful death,” accessed Nov. 23, 2014