For many visitors and residents, Hawaii is a land filled with life and beauty, and a constant source of physical and spiritual renewal. The Aloha spirit runs deeply within the connections that people feel to all living things on the islands.
When an unexpected event tears a loved one away, the pain of those who were part of that web of connections to the deceased can seem unbearable. For family members who are left to pick up the pieces after a disastrous accident that was the result of negligence or harmful intent, getting emotional as well as financial help can prove challenging, especially if the deceased was the primary household wage earner.
Fighting insurance companies for compensation after such a catastrophe can prove daunting, especially when the surviving loved ones are also struggling with tremendous grief. Hawaii residents who are facing loss will want to understand their options for pursuing a claim that will provide some solace and a more secure path forward.
Negligence and intent to harm
Under Hawaii law, a wrongful death is loss due to a wrongful act, neglect, or default of another individual or entity. When a family is recovering from the loss of a loved one, they often pursue a wrongful death claim in civil court. Because the standard of proof in a civil suit is not as high as it would be in a criminal case, it is a preferred option for providing financial restitution to surviving loved ones.
Claims may arise after a wide range of deadly events such as negligence in a motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, bad faith health or life insurance denials, or intentional criminal acts. For a wrongful death claim to move forward, it is the personal representative of the decedent’s estate who will file the claim. In a successful claim, the plaintiff will establish the following necessary elements:
- The death of a person
- The defendant’s negligence or intent to do harm as the cause
- The resulting financial injury to the family
- The appointment of a personal representative to represent the estate of the deceased
Compensation for a wrongful death claim
The court may order the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit to pay both economic and noneconomic damages, including expenses related to:
- Lost wages and benefits of the deceased.
- Medical and burial expenses of the deceased
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Loss of filial care
- Loss of parental care, guidance, or education
A separate survival action may focus on compensation for the pain and suffering that the deceased experienced prior to death. Outside of funeral expenses, recoverable damages pay out directly to beneficiaries, not the estate of the decedent.