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A brief introduction to wrongful death damages

June 25, 2015

While the death of a loved one is always an incredibly distressing experience, losing a family member to the negligence and/or wrongdoing of another party can be particularly heart-wrenching. Unfortunately, however, thousands of people across the state of Kentucky and the entire country die every year under preventable circumstances. Damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits take two primary forms and are intended to serve more than one purpose.

According to the Kentucky Legislature, the representative of a deceased person can pursue wrongful death claims against a third party if that party’s wrongdoing or negligence caused the victim’s fatal injuries. Depending on the circumstances of the incident in question, the wrongful death claimant can pursue compensatory and/or punitive damages.

Considering the two types of wrongful death damages that exist in tort law, the Cornell University Law School explains that the two forms of monetary compensation are unique from one another. Compensatory damages, for example, account for actual financial losses incurred as a result of the wrongful death. Loss of income, medical expenses and pain and suffering can all factor into compensatory damage awards, and often apply in cases that revolve around professional negligence.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are intended to serve a different purpose than compensatory damages. Unlike compensatory damages, which compensate wrongful death claimants for their actual losses, punitive damages are generally used as a way to punish the liable party or parties for some gross misconduct or wrongdoing. Consequently, punitive damages are not appropriate in all cases.