Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Connecticut

Learn about wrongful death claims in Connecticut, including who can sue, the types of possible damages, and time limits for filing the lawsuit.

In Connecticut, when a person dies as a result of another party’s accidental or intentional action, the deceased person’s estate could be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In this article, we'll examine several key aspects of the laws that apply to wrongful death claims in Connecticut, including:

  • who can file a wrongful death claim in the state’s courts
  • the potential “damages” that might be available, and
  • the time limit on filing this type of lawsuit.

What Is “Wrongful Death” in Connecticut?

In Connecticut, as in most states, a wrongful death occurs when one person dies as a result of the legal fault of another person or entity, including by:

As in other types of personal injury lawsuits, the defendant’s liability in a successful wrongful death case is expressed solely in terms of financial compensation (“damages”) that the court orders the defendant to pay to the deceased person’s survivors or estate. This is one major difference between a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal homicide case, where a conviction can result in jail or prison time, fines paid to the state, probation, and other penalties.

There are other differences between a criminal prosecution for homicide and a wrongful death civil lawsuit. For instance, in a criminal case, the accused's guilt must be established "beyond a reasonable doubt," which is a very high bar for the prosecution to clear. In a civil lawsuit, the defendant's liability must be shown only "by a preponderance of the evidence," meaning it's more likely than not that the defendant is responsible for the death. It is possible, though, for a single act to result in criminal charges and a wrongful death claim: A defendant can be sued for wrongful death in civil court while facing criminal charges related to the same death.

Learn more about proving liability in a wrongful death case.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Connecticut?

Unlike in other types of personal injury cases, the injured person in a wrongful death case (the deceased) is no longer able to seek compensation from the individual or entity that caused the injury; someone else must step in to bring the case to court on behalf of the person's survivors and estate.

In some states, the deceased person’s family is permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In Connecticut, however, only an executor or administrator of the deceased person's estate may bring a wrongful death claim. (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-555 (2021).)

If the person died without an estate plan (such as a will) that named an executor or administrator, or if the named executor or administrator cannot serve, the court may appoint an executor or administrator. This person is responsible for "wrapping up" the business of the estate, as well as pursuing any wrongful death claim.

What Damages Are Possible in a Connecticut Wrongful Death Case?

In a successful Connecticut wrongful death lawsuit, the court orders the defendant to pay “damages”—or the plaintiff's claimed losses—to the deceased person’s estate. The court will determine the amount of damages based on several categories of losses, including:

  • the deceased person’s lost earning capacity
  • loss of the deceased person’s ability to carry on and enjoy life's activities
  • conscious pain and suffering by the deceased before death
  • reasonably necessary medical, hospital, and nursing expenses related to the deceased person's final illness or injury
  • funeral and burial expenses, and
  • loss of consortium (meaning the loss of society, affection, moral support, and companionship the deceased would have provided to his or her surviving spouse).

In some car accident cases, the court may award double or triple damages in a wrongful death case if:

  • the driver who caused the accident deliberately or recklessly disregarded certain traffic laws, and
  • the driver’s deliberate or reckless behavior was a “substantial factor” in causing the death.

In order to seek double or triple damages, the plaintiff must specifically include these claims when filing the wrongful death lawsuit. (See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-295 for the list of traffic violations to which this law applies.)

Get more details on damages that might be available in a wrongful death case.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Connecticut?

Wrongful death claims must be filed within a specific period of time, set by a law called a “statute of limitations.” In Connecticut, a wrongful death case must be filed within two years of the date of the person's death, except that no wrongful death claim can be brought more than five years from the date of the act that caused the person’s death.

However, a wrongful death claim may be brought at any time if the person who caused the death was, as a result of the death, convicted of or found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect for any of the following crimes:

  • murder
  • murder with special circumstances
  • felony murder
  • arson murder
  • manslaughter in the first degree, or
  • manslaughter in the first degree with a firearm.

(Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-555 (2021).)

If you’re considering a wrongful death lawsuit in Connecticut, it’s a good idea to consult a personal injury attorney. Wrongful death cases can be complicated, and a lawyer who is experienced in this area can explain how the law might apply to your specific situation.

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