Minnesota Wrongful Death Claims
For years, in Minnesota as in most states, the common law was that if someone was killed by the negligence (i.e., fault) of another, any claim for damages “died” along with the deceased. Recognizing the unfairness of this rule, in the early 1900’s the Minnesota Legislature created a statute giving the heirs and next of kin a limited right of recovery ($7,500 maximum). Through the years, the legislature gradually increased the maximum recovery to the current law where there is no “cap” on the amount of damages, but still a limit on the type of damages recoverable.
The legislature recognized that the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one is a heart-wrenching, devastating event, and that no amount of money could compensate the family for the grief and loss sustained. Consequently, there was concern for potential “excessive” jury verdict awards, based not upon the evidence, but rather, upon emotion alone.
To make sure there was a logical relationship between the losses sustained by the family and the amount of damages, the Minnesota legislature has limited damages in wrongful death cases to the “pecuniary” loss sustained by the survivors. Minn. Stat. §573.02, subd. 1 provides in part:
The recovery in the action is the amount the jury deems fair and just in reference to the pecuniary loss resulting from the death, and shall be for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse and next of kin, proportionate to the pecuniary loss severally suffered by the death
In determining the amount of pecuniary loss suffered, the following factors are to be considered:
- The past financial contributions of the deceased to his or her family;
- The life expectancy of the deceased;
- The health, age habits, talents, and success of the deceased;
- The occupation of the deceased;
- The past earnings of the deceased;
- The likely future earning capacity of the deceased had he or she lived;
- The deceased’s personal living expenses;
- The legal obligation of the deceased to support the surviving family members;
- All reasonable expenses incurred for medical expenses incurred before death;
- All reasonable funeral and burial expenses;
- The counsel, guidance, and aid the deceased would have given to family; and
- The advice, comfort, assistance, and protection that the deceased would have provided had he or she lived.
Action Must Be Brought By Trustee
Recognizing the difficulty of each family member bringing a claim for their own individual damages, the legislature also mandated by statute that a suitable and competent trustee be appointed by the court to bring the claim on behalf of all claimants. This trustee is usually a family member and owes a fiduciary obligation to all heirs and next of kin equally. Upon a recovery of money, the court must approve the distribution of the proceeds, either by agreement of all recipients, or though a hearing to determine the proportionate loss suffered by each claimant.
Minnesota Wrongful Death Attorneys
Because of the many other statutory and procedural requirements of wrongful death claims, the knowledge, assistance and guidance of an experienced wrongful death attorney is indispensible. If you have suffered the loss of a family member through the negligence of another, call one of the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Nelson Personal Injury for a free consultation.
When you choose to work with us, you can be confident that your case is being handled by a competent, experienced and compassionate professional. Unlike some attorneys, we devote our entire practice to representing individuals who have been injured or killed due to the negligence of another. For more than 30 years, our attorneys have been fighting for the rights of our clients and their families.
We know that you will have many questions about your rights and the claim process, and we always take the time to explain the process and your rights to you. Complete the form below, or call us today to see how we can help you. All consultations with our experienced wrongful death attorneys are free and there is no obligation.