Recovery available for fatal accidents in Connecticut

If your loved one was killed by an act of negligence or carelessness, losses may be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Even with the safety measures available today, the world remains a place where accidents happen every day. Unfortunately, sometimes these accidents can be fatal. Although you may think that recovery is not available in fatal accidents as it is with accidents causing injury, this is fortunately not the case. In Connecticut, the decedent's estate can recover may of the losses caused by the death in a wrongful death lawsuit.

A "wrongful death" is a broad term covering many situations where a person's death is caused by someone else's negligence, recklessness or intentional conduct. In day-to-day life, wrongful death is present in many situations that result in a fatality, such as motor vehicle collisions, workplace accidents, medical malpractice and murder. Although the responsible party may also face criminal charges for their role in the decedent's death, charges are not necessary to file (nor influence the outcome of) a wrongful death lawsuit, since it is a separate civil proceeding.

In Connecticut, a person, business or government agency can potentially be held liable for a wrongful death. Under the law, the responsible party may not be sued directly by the aggrieved parties. Instead, the personal representative of the decedent's estate (also known as executor) may file the lawsuit on behalf of the estate.

Any damages recovered by the estate in the lawsuit are distributed to the decedent's family members according to the terms of his or her will. If no will was made, the damages are instead distributed according to the intestate succession laws of Connecticut, which are the "default" distribution rules for those without a will.

What is recoverable?

Unlike other states, in Connecticut, losses suffered by the decedent's family members, such as pain and suffering and economic losses, may not be recovered in a wrongful death lawsuit, unless a family member directly witnessed the tragic accident. Instead, damages are calculated based on the losses of the decedent. Recoverable damages include:

• Pain and suffering experienced by decedent just before death

• Hospital, nursing and medical bills

• Funeral and burial expenses

• Decedent's loss of earning capacity

If the conduct of the party responsible for the decedent's death was malicious, intentional or showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others, the personal representative may also recover punitive damages-which is intended to punish the responsible party and allow for the recovery of legal fees.

Although the wrongful death statutes generally prohibit family members from recovering their own losses, except as mentioned above, a separate law allows the decedent's spouse to sue the responsible party for loss of consortium. This lawsuit allows the spouse to recover damages for loss of support and companionship, as well as other economic and emotional losses caused by the death.

An attorney can help you

Since wrongful death actions often involve complex issues of proof, it is advisable to consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following the events. An attorney can work to uncover and preserve vital evidence, such as witnesses to the event or its immediate aftermath, ensuring a greater chance of a successful and fair recovery.