Wrongful death, as you are probably aware, is a lawsuit that you may bring on behalf of a deceased loved one. The way these lawsuits work is that you "stand" in the place of the decedent.
This means that you are your deceased family member's representative in court. This is a sensitive area of law because of the emotional matters inherent to any suit. However, there are also unanticipated rules that sometimes trip up litigants.
Every lawsuit requires some sort of valuation on the harm caused. For a car accident, this is relatively simple as you add up the damage to your property, your medical bills, lost wages and maybe some pain and suffering and you have a nice round number. The problem with a wrongful death claim is how do you value the entirety of a human life?
The courts have roughly determined that there are two primary ways to value someone's life. The first is objectively, meaning your loved one's entire possible wage earnings. The court will consider a variety of facts such as education, current position, age and many other factors.
The second is subjectively, which refers to the loss of companionship to family members and the loss of future children, providing the decedent was capable of having children. And no matter how careful the courts may be, both of these rules require the judge to make some extrapolations.
If you recently lost a loved one, then you may want to consult with an attorney. Wrongful death actions can become very complicated depending upon the kind of life your loved one was leading. It is probably a good idea for you to get help in determining your legal position.