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A primer on wrongful death in Connecticut

Wrongful death allows the Estate of those who have been killed by someone else's negligence to recover for the loss of life.

If a close family member of yours has been killed because of someone else's negligence, you might think that any right of legal recovery ended with the death. Fortunately, this is not the case, as Connecticut allows the Estate to recover for the loss of life caused by the unexpected death in a wrongful death lawsuit.

"Wrongful death" is a term that covers a number of situations. It occurs in any situation where a person is killed as a result of someone else's negligent, reckless or intentional conduct. There are many situations where a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate-everything from medical malpractice and car accidents to murder and workplace accidents. If you encounter such a situation in life, it is important to have a basic understanding of how Connecticut law governs this type of lawsuit.

In Connecticut, a person, company or government entity can be held legally responsible for a wrongful death. However, unlike some other states, the aggrieved family member cannot sue the responsible party directly under the law. Instead, the Executor or Fiduciary (personal representative of the decedent's estate) files the wrongful death lawsuit.

If the Estate's representative is successful in recovering damages, they are distributed to family members according to the terms of the decedent's Will. If the decedent died without a Will, the damages are instead distributed according to Connecticut's intestate succession laws.

Damages recoverable

In Connecticut, the measure of damages in wrongful death lawsuits is based solely on the decedent's losses. As a result, losses suffered by family members, such as emotional losses or economic damages, are not recoverable. Under the law, the types of damages that may be recovered include:

  • Hospital, medical and nursing expenses
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Decedent's pain and suffering endured prior to death
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Loss of ability to enjoy life's activities

In addition to these damages, if the conduct of the party responsible for the death was intentional, malicious or exhibited a reckless disregard for the safety of others, the Estate's representative may recover punitive damages. This type of damages is not based on an actual loss, but is intended to punish the responsible party and deter others from repeating the conduct in the future by awarding legal fees and costs.

Speak to an attorney

Although the wrongful death laws prohibit family members from recovering the losses they suffered, another law allows the decedent's spouse to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. Under a loss of consortium claim, spouses may recover damages such a loss of income, support and companionship, as well as emotional losses caused by the death of a spouse.

If you have lost a loved one due to another's negligence, it is important to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can gather the facts surrounding the death and hold the responsible party accountable.