When a wrongful act, such as a car accident, causes a person’s death, then the estate of the deceased may recover for economic losses suffered due to the death of their loved one. The estate may recover for the deceased’s loss of earnings that would have passed to his or her heirs, the monetary value of the deceased’s services, the loss of any inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses resulting from the wrongful death.
The estate representative may maintain such a lawsuit, but the recovery will be paid directly to the heirs. If the deceased had settled a personal injury claim for the underlying wrongful act that caused his or her death or the statute of limitations had expired on that claim, then the wrongful death claim is no longer available. If the deceased had not began a legal claim before his or her death, then the estate typically has only 2 years from the date of death to begin a law suit for wrongful death. Punitive damages may be awarded in a wrongful death action depending on the underlying wrongful act.