A death that was caused by another person or entity's negligent or wrongful acts can qualify as a “wrongful death.” When a wrongful death happens in the state of Iowa, the damages that are awarded to beneficiaries of the deceased are distributed as part of that person's estate.
Wrongful death claims can be filed in both civil and criminal courts. There are two important differences between a civil wrongful death lawsuit claim and a criminal case:
- For a civil wrongful death claims, liability is expressed in terms of monetary damages. In a criminal case, the party responsible for the death can be punished with a jail or prison sentence, probation, or other penalties.
- Civil wrongful death cases have to be directly filed by the deceased person's estate. In a criminal case, the state is responsible for filing the criminal complaint.
You can think of a wrongful death as personal injury case that is filed on behalf of a person who can no longer pursue a claim. Because the deceased can no longer pursue a claim for damages, their family has to file the claim on their behalf.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Iowa?
The following parties have the right to file a wrongful death claim in Iowa:
- The executor or administrator of the deceased party's estate
- Any surviving minor children or spouse of the deceased
- Adult children of a deceased parent
- Parents of a minor or adult child who has died
If the deceased does not have a will or other document that names an executor for their estate, one will need to be appointed before a wrongful death case can go forward.
In Iowa, a wrongful death claim has to be filed within two years from the date of the decedent's death. With very limited exception, Courts won't hear a wrongful death case that is filed after the two-year time limit.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Case
Damage awards for a wrongful death case are paid out to either the estate, family members, or both. What you can claim for damages in a wrongful death lawsuit depends on the particular facts of the case. Damage awards can cover the following expenses:
- Medical bills for the deceased's illness or injury
- Pre-death pain and suffering of the deceased
- Lost wages, income and/or value of lifetime earnings of the deceased
- Funeral and burial costs
- Property damage
- Loss of services and companionship to family
- Punitive damages
If the death of your loved one was caused by another person's negligent actions, you have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim. At Danny Cornell Law, our legal team can help you secure the justice you deserve. Contact our Southeast Iowa wrongful death lawyers to set up your free consultation today.