Who Can Recover Damages for Wrongful Death?

Posted On March 17, 2022 Wrongful Death
mourning family gathered around the urn of a deceased loved one

The death of an individual can impact countless numbers of people. Family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and people in the community and beyond can feel the effects of such a loss. The sense of sorrow is particularly acute when someone dies suddenly as a result of negligence or wrongdoing on the part of another.

Although many people may grieve the unexpected death of someone they knew, the law in Connecticut limits who can recover wrongful death damages. Previously, we looked at the restrictions Connecticut law imposes on who can bring a wrongful death claim. It is also important to be aware of who is entitled to compensation in the event of a settlement or favorable judgment.

Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Compensation?

1. The Decedent’s Estate

The Connecticut wrongful death statute places a heavy emphasis on the estate’s right to recovery. Specifically, Connecticut General Statutes § 52-555 allows the personal representative of the decedent’s estate to pursue compensation for the following losses incurred prior to the individual’s death:

  • Medical and hospital bills
  • The cost of nursing services
  • Funeral expenses, including the cost of burial or cremation

The estate is also entitled to recovery of damages that the deceased would have been due had he or she survived the accident or injuries. This includes compensation for:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of the enjoyment of life
  • Loss of earning capacity

If the victim died intestate (i.e., a will was not in place when the victim passed away), the administrator appointed by the probate court can bring a claim for these damages.

2. The Surviving Spouse or Civil Partner

Connecticut law also allows a spouse or civil partner to bring a claim for the wrongful death of the other spouse or partner. This action is known as a loss of consortium claim.

“Loss of consortium” is a legal term for the various losses associated with the death of a spouse. Connecticut General Statutes § 52-555(b) define the loss of consortium damages recoverable by a spouse as follows:

  • Loss of society and companionship
  • Loss of services
  • Loss of affection
  • Loss of moral support
  • Loss of sexual relations

The value of loss of consortium damages is considered separately from the damages sought by the estate. However, Connecticut law requires that both the estate’s claim and the claim by the estate must be joined into a single wrongful death action.

3. Surviving Children

In 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Campos v. Coleman recognized the right of minor children to pursue damages for the wrongful death of a parent. Recognizing that the “child-parent relationship is unique in its emotional closeness, in its value to society and in its generation of enforceable legal rights and obligations,” the court determined that minor children should be entitled to compensation for the “loss of love, care, companionship, and guidance” stemming from the wrongful death of a parent.

A minor child’s loss of parental consortium claim must be joined with the loss of spousal consortium claim. In addition, according to the court, such a claim “would be barred when the [action] brought by the injured [parent] has been terminated by settlement or by an adverse judgment.”

The Connecticut Supreme Court maintains that the relationship between adult children and their parents is inherently different from that between a parent and a minor child. As such, the court only recognizes the right of a child to bring a loss of parental consortium claim if the child was a minor (under the age of 18) at the time of the parent’s wrongful death. In addition, recoverable damages are limited to those sustained by the minor child between the date of the parent’s death and the date that the child reaches the age of majority (18).

What Can Other Members of the Family Recover for Wrongful Death?

Many states entitle particular surviving family members (such as a spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.) to compensation for the wrongful death of a loved one. The statute in Connecticut is very different.

According to Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-448(b):

“… after payment of the costs and expenses of suit, all expenses of last illness and all funeral bills, the expenses of administration and claims against the estate and such amount for the support of the surviving spouse or family of the deceased during the settlement of the estate as the Court of Probate may allow, shall be distributed as personal estate in accordance with the last will and testament of the deceased if there is one.”

Connecticut law does not recognize the specific losses of individual family members outside of claims for the loss of spousal consortium and loss of parental consortium described above. However, should the wrongful death claim succeed, the damages awarded to and distributed by the estate can help offset the losses suffered by the individuals named in the decedent’s will (which often includes family members).

If there is no will, the statute requires that the proceeds from the wrongful death claim be distributed according to “the law concerning the distribution of intestate personal estate.” The law of intestate succession (Connecticut General Statutes § 45a-437) mandates the following distribution of an intestate estate:

  • The spouse receives the entirety of the intestate estate if the decedent had no surviving parents and no surviving “issue” (a legal term meaning the descendants of an individual, such as children, grandchildren, etc.).
  • If the decedent has no issue but is survived by one or more parents, the spouse is entitled to the first $100,000 “plus three-quarters of the balance of the intestate estate”; the remainder goes to the parent or parents.
  • The spouse is entitled to the first $100,000 and one-half of the intestate estate if “there are surviving issue of the decedent one or more of whom are not issue of the surviving spouse”; the remaining half of the estate goes to the child or children who are not issue of the surviving spouse.

The intestate succession law makes no provision for siblings and other family members who may be close to the decedent. Unfortunately, this leaves other close relatives with no legal recourse if their loved one died without a will.

Contact a Connecticut Wrongful Death Attorney Today

Wrongful death litigation in Connecticut is complicated. The last thing you should have to think about in the aftermath of a loved one’s death is navigating the difficulties of a legal action. It is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible.

The Flood Law Firm has extensive experience representing the families of those killed by the negligence of another. Unlike many law firms in the area, we frequently take cases to trial. In addition to achieving superior outcomes for our clients, our willingness to go to court frequently enables us to negotiate more favorable settlements.

Our Results Speak for Themselves.

Please call The Flood Law Firm at (860) 346-2695 today for a free case evaluation. Our wrongful death lawyers assist clients and their families in Middletown, Danbury, Bridgeport, Waterbury, and throughout Connecticut.

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