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What damages are available in a wrongful death suit?

The sudden death of a loved one can be extremely difficult for a family to deal with. When the death was caused by a negligent driver, families can feel even more anger, sadness and pain. This was the case recently for one Washington family. As this blog post highlighted, the family lost the family's breadwinner -- a husband and father -- in a fatal drunk driving accident. In addition to the man's death, three other family members were seriously injured in this accident.

In these cases like this, families likely have serious financial consequences caused by the accident in addition to the emotional damage. A family may not have a source of income, have large medical bills, funeral costs and more.

When a person is killed in an accident caused by the negligence of another, that person's family may have the right to bring a wrongful death suit. In this suit, the family could be entitled to a variety of damages. While this blog post can only provide general information, a Washington attorney can provide specific legal advice for those in this situation.

Generally, however, the main type of damages available in a wrongful death suit are pecuniary losses. Pecuniary losses are the actual financial injuries suffered by the deceased's family. These can include compensation for funeral expenses, medical bills, loss of support, loss of parental guidance and lost prospect of inheritance. The specific amount of the award is determined by looking at a variety of factors including the decedent's age, earning capacity, health, life expectancy, intelligence and other related circumstances.

In some cases, punitive damage might also be available for a family. These damages are meant to punish the negligent party and deter others from following the party's bad example. The availability of these types of damage depend on the specific situation in the case and state law.

Source: Findlaw, "Wrongful Death Overview," accessed March 30, 2015

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