Are punitive damages available in wrongful death actions?

| May 30, 2018 | Wrongful Death

When a person is hurt or killed due to the actions of another person, certain personal injury legal claims may arise that give the victim or victims options for seeking compensation for the harm they have suffered. When a Worcester resident is hurt in a car accident, they may sue the responsible party under the theory of negligence. If that individual is killed in the crash, their estate may be entitled to sue on wrongful death grounds.

As previously discussed on this blog, a wrongful death claim arises when a victim dies due to another party’s conduct. Negligence, reckless or wanton actions and breaches of warranty can all serve as the grounds for wrongful death claims. A wrongful death claim is brought on behalf of the victim’s estate by the estate’s administrator or executor.

A wrongful death claim can yield a variety of damages for the estate, but only when the death was caused by willful, wanton, malicious or reckless conduct may the estate seek “punitive damages.” Punitive damages do not compensate a victim for an actual loss, but rather are assessed as a penalty against the responsible party and a deterrent to prevent others from acting similarly in the future.

Punitive damages are not available in all Massachusetts wrongful death claims, but they may be available when particularly malevolent actions were involved in the death of a human being. To better understand the types of damages that an estate may be entitled to pursue after a wrongful death, readers are encouraged to seek case-specific help from personal injury attorneys they know and trust.

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