Frequently Asked Questions about Wrongful Death Claims

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on May 17, 2017 in Wrongful Death
Updated on April 25, 2024

man visiting cemetaryA wrongful death claim is a civil action the deceased’s immediate loved ones or relatives can take when his or her death was caused by another’s negligent or intentional actions.

Below, you will find answers to questions our attorneys are frequently asked regarding wrongful death claims in Wisconsin.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding a wrongful death claim, do no hesitate to contact our Milwaukee injury law firm.

What is Wrongful Death?

In Wisconsin, a wrongful death is considered to be a fatality caused by negligence, default of action or a wrongful act.

It is a civil action brought against the at-fault party in lieu of a personal injury claim the decedent would have taken had he or she survived.

However, a wrongful death claim should not be confused with a survival action. Wrongful death claims are usually brought by the decedent’s immediate family members or dependent loved ones.

Survival actions are filed by the decedent’s estate in order to pursue damages the decedent was entitled to before his or her untimely death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Wisconsin?

Only certain people are allowed to bring a wrongful death claim in Wisconsin. Those who qualify must meet the state’s clear specifications to be able to recover damages for a wrongful death.

According to Wis. Stat. 895.04, an action for a wrongful death may be brought by either the personal representative of the decedent or by the person named as the decedent’s beneficiary.

The beneficiary listed in a wrongful death claim often includes the decedent’s:

  • Spouse/domestic partner
  • Children under the age of 18
  • Parents
  • Legal guardian

If the decedent leaves behind a spouse or domestic partner, as well as minor children under 18 years old, the court is required to set aside damages from any award to allocate for the dependents’ care. The amount allocated to the decedent’s dependents will be determined based on their:

  • Age
  • The amount involved in the claim
  • The abilities of the minor children
  • The capacity and integrity of the surviving spouse or domestic partner

The allocated damages must be an amount large enough to properly support the decedent’s surviving dependents, but cannot exceed 50 percent of the claim’s total value.

If the decedent did not leave behind surviving children, then the allocated damages will belong to his or her spouse or domestic partner.

If there is no surviving spouse or domestic partner, the decedent’s named beneficiary will assume all damages. In the event that the decedent did not name a beneficiary, his or her sibling or closest surviving relative will receive the allocated damages.

Is There a Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin places a three-year statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death claim. If you fail to take legal action within this time period, you lose your right to seek damages from the at-fault party.

If your loved one was killed due to an injury he or she acquired from another’s negligence, the statute of limitations begins either when the victim was initially injured or when he or she should have reasonably known of the injury.

For example, if your loved one was killed instantly in an accident, the statute of limitations would begin on the date of the accident. If your loved one died from injuries two months after an accident, the statute of limitations would begin on the date of the accident.

However, if your loved one was not aware of his or her injuries immediately, the statute of limitations would begin on the date he or she became aware of the injury.

What Damages May Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim?

In Wisconsin, you are allowed to pursue monetary compensation through a wrongful death action for:

  • The decedent’s medical expenses.
  • The decedent’s funeral and burial expenses.
  • Financial losses, such as lost wages and income the decedent would have earned had he or she survived.
  • Loss of companionship and society. This is intended to compensate those who would suffer personal loss because of the decedent’s untimely death. It is usually extended to the decedent’s spouse, domestic partner or children who are under 18 years old. These are limited to $350,000 if the decedent was an adult, and $500,000 if the decedent was a minor.

If a personal representative of the deceased was legally appointed, he or she may also purse a “survivorship claim” on behalf of the deceased’s estate.

A survivorship claim pursues compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased endured between the moment of initial injury and the time of death. Wisconsin does not limit the damages listed in a survivorship claim.

Professional Legal Help for Wrongful Death Claims

Unfortunately, wrongful death claims can be complicated and may require the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you navigate through Wisconsin’s complex laws.

If you are pursuing damages from the at-fault party in a death caused by negligence, it may be in your best interest to consult with our Milwaukee wrongful death attorneys.

The PKSD legal team will work with you to hold a negligent party accountable for the suffering caused by killing your loved one.

Through a free, no obligation consultation, we will review your claim and the terms surrounding your loved one’s death to determine if you are entitled to legal action and compensation.

We only work on a contingency fee basis, which means we never charge you upfront for any service we provide. You are only required to pay us if we reach a fair outcome on your behalf.

Call 414-333-3333 or complete our Free Case Evaluation form today.

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