Civil cases can be brought for negligence or wrongdoing that leads to death. The victim’s estate, surviving spouse and children, or parents and siblings, may have claims for the pre-death pain and suffering, loss of love, care, companionship, financial loss, and under some circumstances the emotional distress of the survivors.
Before April 2019, the estates of single adults with no children were extremely limited or excluded from recovering under the law. The only exception was if a a parent or sibling was financially dependent upon them for support and a resident of the United States. This meant that if a college student was wrongfully killed, their parents had no personal claims. And the Estate was only entitled to what the student would have earned minus what they would have consumed – an equation which most defendants argued would be zero or close to that.
One of the main differences in a wrongful death case is that we never meet the person who was killed. Instead we learn the vivid details of their life through the memories of and documentation provided by surviving family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others. We spend all of our time with those left behind who now have a hole in their hearts.