Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death in Vermont

In simple terms, a wrongful death case is a specific type of negligence case. We argue a negligent act caused the death of a person. This person would have been the plaintiff if he or she hadn’t died from the injuries. These cases can sound in medical negligence, car crashes, products liability, or other types of negligence. The estate’s executor or administrator brings the claim. The probate division must appoint an executor or administrator. The executor or administrator, generally, must file the wrongful-death case within two years of a person’s death.             

“Survival” Claims

Depending on the circumstances of the case, there may be claims for pre-death personal injury damages. These claims arise when the person who died experiences pain, fear, or trauma before dying. The Vermont Supreme Court has not specifically addressed the issue. But trial courts have interpreted this statute as allowing “survival claims” up to three years after death. Whether a survival claim exists requires factual and legal analysis, and often, a court’s determination.  

Wrongful Death Damages

By statute, wrongful death damages are for the benefit of the “spouse and next of kin.” This statute has been around for a while. “Next of kin” is also defined by the statute and means spouse, children, and, if neither of those exist, the decedent’s parents. Damages for wrongful death generally include economic damages and past and future loss of love and companionship, loss of the parent-child relationship, and grief and mental anguish. As with other so-called non-economic damages, there is no particular formula to calculate damages and the court will instruct the jury that the damages should be “fair” in light of the evidence presented at trial.   

If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence, and you’d like to know what your options are, contact us for a consultation.