While I am a native Hoosier and do love our State, I am sometimes perplexed at how slowly some of our laws have changed to reflect modern values. Specifically, it was only in 1998 that Indiana first recognized a legal claim for the wrongful death of a child. Equally amazing, prior to 2010 Indiana courts did not recognize a legal claim for the wrongful death of an unborn but viable fetus. In the same vein, it was again only in 2000 that Indiana law changed to permit a legal claim for the wrongful death of an adult with no dependents.
Prior to 2000, a recovery for the wrongful death of an unmarried adult with no dependents, such as for example a spouse or minor child, was limited only to final burial and funeral expenses. Thus, when a U.S. Air Force jet crashed into a Ramada Inn hotel here in Indianapolis in 1987, many of the 9 Ramada Inn employees who were killed in that tragic incident were young people in their 20’s who were single and had no children or other dependants. As unbelievable as it sounds now, under Indiana law that existed at that time, the only compensation that the U.S. government owed the surviving parents of those young people was the cost of their funerals and burials.
I also still remember a trucking accident case in the 1990’s in which I was consulted where a semi-truck driver who had fallen asleep rear-ended a passenger car that a recently retired couple was driving home from church. Unfortunately, both the husband and wife were killed as a result. Although the adult children of this couple were devastated by the death of their parents, because this couple had no dependants at the time of their death, all the trucking company legally owed was the cost of a closed casket funeral and burial.
At long last, this archaic law was finally changed in 2000 to permit a claim for the wrongful death of such individuals. Indiana Code 34-23-1-2 provides that if a person is wrongfully killed, is not a “child” as defined by Indiana law as discussed in my previous blog, and has no dependants, then the surviving parents or adult children of the deceased make bring a wrongful death claim. However, the recovery is limited to $300,000. While this amount is not enough to fully compensate the surviving parents and/or adult child for their loss, at least it is an improvement over the previous law.
If you believe, as I do, that this dollar limitation is unfair, contact your state representative and let them know!
If you or a loved one have suffered the loss of a loved one because of another person’s negligence, contact Indiana wrongful death attorney James F. Ludlow to discuss your case. Call me toll-free at 1-877-896-9466 or submit the simple form on the Contact Us page.