Most people can’t even think about practical concerns like money in the immediate aftermath of the unexpected death of one of their loved ones. When you lose someone in a sudden way, such as in a drunk driving car accident, you may struggle to even accept your loss as part of reality for many days. Considering all of the practical impacts of that tragedy can seem impossible.
Although it is totally understandable to experience grief after a sudden loss, you should not let that grief prevent you from really looking at the situation. For example, if someone else were directly responsible for your loved one’s death, such as a drunk driver, you may have grounds under South Dakota’s laws to file a wrongful death claim against the individual, provided that you do it within three years of the date of death.
The more carefully you look at how the loss will affect your life, the more damages you can claim from the responsible party.
In South Dakota, you can only recover pecuniary damages
Every state has its own rules regarding what kind of compensation surviving dependents can seek after a wrongful death occurs. In some states, punitive damages are available, which are essentially financial penalties levied by the courts in addition to provable financial losses. South Dakota does sometimes allow for punitive damages, but most cases only involve the recovery of pecuniary damages.
Pecuniary damages are verifiable financial losses. Common pecuniary damages that people claim in wrongful death cases include lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to their death, and funeral expenses incurred. However, there are other losses that you can place a price on in order to increase the amount of your claim.
Look at the cost of the services that your loved one provided for the family
In most families, everyone does their part to support each other. Each individual may have their own unique role. For example, you might be the one who does the meal planning and grocery shopping, while your spouse does the cooking and the dishes. Perhaps you do all the inside work, while they managed the yard and vehicle maintenance.
Once you have the comprehensive list of the services that your spouse provided to your household, you can then begin to put a price on those services. What will it cost you to outsource those services to a third party? Mowing your lawn could carry a price tag of hundreds of dollars a month, depending on the size of your lawn and the location of your home. The same could be true for childcare, cooking and other common tasks that cost quite a bit when you have to outsource them.
Discussing the impact of your loss and considering your options carefully can help you maximize your claim in order to reduce the impact of your loss and hold the other person accountable for what they’ve done.