When people lose a family member in Michigan, they could suffer numerous economic losses in addition to grief. The wrongful death statute in Michigan allows people to seek reimbursement for specific losses incurred when someone dies. They can claim lost wages, funeral expenses and medical costs, along with other economic setbacks the death could cause the surviving family members.
Families may want to maximize how much compensation they pursue, and they may want to create more consequences for the party responsible for their loved one’s death. Punitive damages are a form of financial penalty imposed in some wrongful death and personal injury cases.
Does Michigan permit families to request punitive damages in wrongful death lawsuits?
Exemplary damages may be available
Michigan does not allow plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits to request punitive damages. However, the law does allow for exemplary damages instead. Michigan treats exemplary damages as a type of actual damages suffered by the surviving family members.
Some states use the term exemplary damages in a changeably with punitive damages. In Michigan, exemplary damages actually have a different meaning. They are not a punishment for the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, they are a form of compensation for the parties affected by the despicable conduct of the defendant in the lawsuit. Typically, families would need to show that the defendant acted out of malice, intentionally deceived others or was blatantly reckless. If the courts agree to a request for exemplary damages, that could significantly increase the value of the lawsuit.
Ultimately, requesting exemplary damages requires additional evidence and special circumstances but can increase compensation for the plaintiffs and consequences for the defendant, if awarded.