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Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Montana

The emotional distress and grief endured by those who have lost a loved one in a car or trucking accident is unimaginable.  In addition, it can result in financial disaster for families whose breadwinners are killed through no fault of their own.  Fortunately, Montana law allows individuals to pursue a wrongful death claim against the person responsible for causing the fatal car or trucking accident.

 A car accident near Helena, MT which recently claimed the life of a 20 year old girl serves as a sobering reminder of the increasing prevalence of fatalities on Montana’s highways

Although many people outside the law are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of a wrongful death claim, it is critically important that you know what remedies are available in the event that a family member is killed in a car or trucking accident.  The more you know about the damages you can seek, the less likely you are to be taken advantage of by the insurance company handling your claim.   

Unlike a non-fatal personal injury claim, the damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim are non specific and include loss of consortium by a spouse, loss of comfort and society of the decedent suffered by the surviving heirs, and the reasonable value of the contributions in money that the decedent would have made for the support, education, training and care of their heirs had the decedent lived.  Under Montana law, wrongful death damages are personal to the heirs of the decedent but the claim can only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.

In addition to a wrongful death claim, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate can pursue a survival action in the event that the decedent survived for an appreciable period of time and was not killed instantaneously in the fatal car or trucking accident.  Both the wrongful death claim and the survivorship claim must be filed at the same time.  A survival action raises claims that came into existence while the decedent was still alive.  These claims survive the decedent’s death, and the survivorship claim may be pursued against the responsible party by the PR of the decedent’s estate.  The damages that may be recovered in a survival action include lost earnings from the time of injury to death, the present value of reasonable earnings during the decedent’s remaining life expectancy, medical and funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and other special damages.  The source of the damages recoverable in a survival action are personal to the decedent and do not include the damages suffered by the decedent’s spouse, children or other heirs.  

Should you ever suffer the tragedy of losing a loved one in a car or trucking accident, it is imperative that you contact a Montana personal injury law firm which is well versed in handling wrongful death claims. The attorneys at Hoyt and Blewett PLLC have decades of experience navigating a sometimes complicated system to ensure that clients are able to collect the full amount of their wrongful death and survivorship damages.  Please contact us to learn more.