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Indiana Wrongful Death Laws

The Indiana wrongful death laws can be found in Article 23, Title 34 of Indiana statutes.  Pursuant to Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 34-23-1-1, when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act or omission of another, the personal representative of the former may maintain an action therefor against the latter, if the former might have maintained an action had he or she as the case may be lived, against the latter for an injury for the same act or omission.  Such action shall be commenced by the personal representative of the decedent within two years.

The amount of damages shall be in such an amount as may be determined by the court or jury, including, but not limited to, reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses, and lost earnings of such deceased person resulting from said wrongful act or omission.  That part of the damages which is recovered for reasonable medical, hospital, funeral and burial expense shall inure to the exclusive benefit of the decedent’s estate for the payment thereof.  The remainder of the damages, if any, shall, inure to the exclusive benefit of the widow or widower, as the case may be, and to the dependent children, if any, or dependent next of kin, to be distributed in the same manner as the personal property of the deceased.  If the deceased left no surviving spouse or next of kin, the damages inure to the exclusive benefit of the person or persons furnishing necessary and reasonable hospital services in connection with the last illness or injury of the decedent, to a funeral director or funeral home for the necessary and reasonable funeral and burial expenses, and to the personal representative for the costs and expenses of administering the estate and prosecuting or compromising the action, including a reasonable attorney’s fee[i].

Pursuant to Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 34-23-1-2 , in an action to recover damages for the death of an adult person, the damages must be in an amount determined by a court or jury.  The damages may not include damages awarded for a person’s grief or punitive damages.  The damages may include reasonable medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses necessitated by the wrongful act or omission that caused the adult person’s death and loss of the adult person’s love and companionship.

A parent or child who wishes to recover damages has the burden of proving that the parent or child had a genuine, substantial, and ongoing relationship with the adult person before the parent or child may recover damages.  A court or a jury may not hear evidence concerning the lost earnings of the adult person that occur as a result of the wrongful act or omission.  While awarding damages to more than one person, the court or the jury shall specify the amount of the damages that should be awarded to each person[ii].

When the deceased is a child, an action may be maintained against the person whose wrongful act or omission caused the injury or death of the child by:
1) the father and mother jointly, or either of them by naming the other parent as a co-defendant to answer as to his or her interest;

2) in case of divorce or dissolution of marriage, the person to whom custody of the child was awarded; and

3) a guardian, for the injury or death of a protected person[iii].

In an action to recover for the death of a child, the plaintiff may recover damages:
1) for the loss of the child’s services;

2) for the loss of the child’s love and companionship; and

3) to pay the expenses towards health care and hospitalization, funeral and burial, psychiatric and psychological counseling incurred by a surviving parent or minor sibling, uninsured debts of the child and the administration of the child’s estate, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Damages may be awarded only with respect to the period of time from the death of the child until the date that the child would have reached 20 years of age or 23 years of age, if the child was enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution or in a career and technical education school or program that is not a post-secondary educational program; or the date of the child’s last surviving parent’s death, whichever first occurs[iv].

[i] Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 34-23-1-1

[ii] Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 34-23-1-2

[iii] Burns Ind. Code Ann. § 34-23-2-1

[iv] Id.

Inside Indiana Wrongful Death Laws