If an heir sues (eg., son or daughter for death of parent, wife for death of husband, mother for death of child, brother for death of sibling, etc) for wrongful death (eg., in Colorado, they can request noneconomic damages ($436,070* or, $300,000 in medical negligence cases) including pain and suffering, grief and loss of companionship, etc., as well as medical or burial expenses. In addition, and most important in cases of a younger or high wage earner, the Personal Representative or Estate can sue for net pecuniary losses (no cap),** which basically includes the loss of income that the person would have earned in their lifetime minus their personal consumption expense. This claim is in addition to any ‘survival’ damages that would have been recoverable by the injured person had they not died.
In some states, again using Colorado as an example, an alternative is to sue for the ‘solatium,’ (the amount recoverable in Colorado is $87,210 (in 2015, adjusted for inflation))* and it is in addition to economic damages and to reasonable funeral, burial, interment, or cremation expenses. The solatium basically is a fixed amount that the jury awards rather than determine damages in its discretion between $0-436,070. The solatium election is only advisable to sue for if it is a simple case, like an auto accident, and there are no close relatives who can sue for grief and there is no significant loss of earnings (net pecuniary loss).
*Statutory caps adjusted for inflation from 1989. Other caps apply to public employees pursuant to the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act.
**Although subject to the provisions of the Health Care Availability Act in applicable cases.