Michigan Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
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03 Dec 2008

Michigan Wrongful Death Damages

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When a person is killed in a motorcycle accident because of the negligence of a driver or other motorcyclist, certain classes of people are entitled to sue that driver or other motorcyclist in a lawsuit for wrongful death. The class of people who can claim derivative damages in a wrongful death lawsuit is defined in the Wrongful Death Statute.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the person suing on behalf of the deceased motorcyclist can claim all the damages that the decedent would as well as additional damages that compensate the family members of the deceased.  Specifically, the person suing on behalf of the deceased motorcyclist would claim damages for injuries that caused the death of the motorcyclist and would also attempt to collect damages for loss of consortium and loss of parental society and companionship.  These damages are called “derivative damages” because they are derived from the wrongful death of the deceased motorcyclist.  Since these damages are derivative of the deceased motorcyclist’s claim, recovery is contingent on the success of that underlying claim.  Therefore, if the claims seeking damages for the motorcyclist’s injuries are dismissed, then the wrongful death claim also ends.

Loss of consortium claims are the most common derivative damages collected because of the wrongful death of a motorcyclist.  Loss of consortium refers to damages from the loss of the deceased motorcyclist’s company, family relationship, support, and love and affection.

The amount of damages that such a person may be entitled to for the wrongful death of a motorcyclist is usually decided by a jury.  The standard jury instruction for loss of consortium claims is very clear that a jury is to determine how long into the future the damages will be sustained if the injury to the spouse is of a continuing nature. This will depend on how long a person is likely to live, which is generally presented to the jury in the form of statutory mortality tables as developed by the Center for Disease Control.

Loss of parental society and companionship are non-spousal loss of consortium claims that are available to children.  Such damages can be collected when a parent is killed in a motorcycle accident.  When someone’s child is killed, however, Michigan does not recognize recovery of a parent suing for loss of companionship for the deceased child.  But, when a child is killed, Michigan law does recognize a parent’s entitlement to recovery for economic damages such as medical expenses, loss of services, paying for the care of an injured child, and even damages for wages that the child may have earned up to the age of eighteen.

Compensation through loss of consortium or loss of parental society and companionship claims is not limited to the deceased motorcyclist’s spouse, parents, or children, but applies to all of the family members entitled to recovery under the Wrongful Death Act found at MCL 600.2922, which includes the deceased’s spouse, children, descendents, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, and if none of these persons survive the deceased, then those persons to whom the estate of the deceased would pass under the law of intestate succession determined as of the date of the death of the deceased motorcyclist.

Michigan lawyers handling these claims must fully understand these laws to obtain the best result for clients who have suffered the tragic loss of a family member. Family members must also understand the law so that they recognize the types of damages allowed under Michigan law.

For more information on Michigan Motorcycle Accident cases, call our office at (800) 606-1717 and request our book, “The Ultimate Michigan Motorcycle Handbook.”  We’ll send it out to you right away.

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