Have you recently lost a loved one in an accident? Whether a car accident, a defective product, or an accident at work, when someone else is responsible for the death of another person, they may be held responsible for the death and responsible for financially compensating the surviving family members.
If you are in a situation like this, you should consider contacting a wrongful death lawsuit attorney. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the complex process of building and filing a wrongful death suit.
What Is Wrongful Death?
One of the first things you need to do is determine if a wrongful death occurred. Each state defines a “wrongful death” differently. For example, in Washington, wrongful death is defined as “a death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person.” Essentially, it’s any death that is the result of the negligence or intentional actions of another person.
If the person had survived the accident and could have legally filed a personal injury suit against the responsible party, a wrongful death lawsuit may be relevant. There are many different types of accidents, injuries, and situations that could result in a wrongful death claim, including:
- Car accidents
- Semi-truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Intentional killing
- Defective products
- Premises liability
- Workplace accidents
Because there are so many different possible causes of wrongful death, this is a complex legal area and you should seek an attorney who specializes in these types of cases if you think that someone was responsible for your loved one’s death.
Are You Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Suit?
If you think you have a wrongful death case, you’ll need to determine if you are actually eligible to file a wrongful death suit. Like the definition of wrongful death, who can file a claim varies by state. In most states, however, the following people may legally seek damages for wrongful death:
Spouses or Domestic Partners
A spouse or domestic partner can file a wrongful death claim. A putative spouse also is eligible in most states. A putative spouse is one who believes that the marriage is legal and valid, even if it is not.
Children, both biological and adopted, can also file a wrongful death suit. Step-children can also file if they were financially dependent on the deceased person. In addition, any other minors, whether they are the children of the deceased person or not, can often file as long as they were living with the deceased person for a period of time before their death (in California, its at least 180 days prior to the death) and were financially dependent on them.
If there is no spouse or descendants of the deceased person, parents can file. They can also file a wrongful death claim if they can demonstrate that they were financially dependent on the deceased, even if there is a spouse or children who also are eligible to file.
If the deceased person doesn’t have a spouse, children, or parents who are able to file a wrongful death suit, other heirs may be eligible. If you would have legally been awarded the proceeds of their estate (in a situation where there is no will), you could be able to file a claim.
An attorney will be able to help you determine if you are eligible. Keep in mind that there may be multiple people who are legally able to file a wrongful death claim.
In this situation, the best outcome is to designate one person to be the representative of the family and then distribute any settlement accordingly. Otherwise, it becomes an unwieldy process and can be difficult to manage multiple claimants and multiple attorneys.
The main goal behind a wrongful death suit is to make sure that the family or other heirs of the deceased are financially compensated by the person or persons responsible for the death. This is especially important in a situation where the deceased person was the main financial support for their family. A wrongful death suit also acknowledges the role that the responsible party played in the death.
Some of the damages that can be awarded in a wrongful death claim include:
- Medical expenses (for injuries that lead to the death of the deceased)
- Funeral, burial, or cremation expenses
- Lost wages, including lifetime potential earnings
- Value of any services the deceased person would have provided (such as child care, chores around the home, etc.)
- Educational expenses
- Loss of care and guidance (particularly for children)
- Loss of companionship (for spouses)
It is difficult to actually put a monetary value on the life of your loved one, so an attorney can help do this with care while respecting the grief you and your family may be experiencing.
Potential Responsible Parties
Just as there are many different injuries that could result in wrongful death, there are many people who could be held responsible, including:
- The at-fault driver in a car, truck, or motorcycle crash
- A doctor who did not properly care for a patient
- A company that produces a defective product
- The owner of a bar, restaurant, or other establishment where alcohol is served
- The person who sold drugs to someone who later overdosed on those drugs
Any of these people could potentially be held responsible for wrongful death, and there is also the possibility that multiple people could be held responsible.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Attorney to Handle Your Case
Although you may be focused on grieving the death of your loved one, you should also seek compensation for the financial losses incurred as a result of their death. Make sure that you and any other descendants are financially cared for and those responsible for their death are held responsible.
Sweet Law specializes in personal injury cases, including wrongful death suits. Contact us today so a wrongful death lawsuit attorney can provide a free case consultation.