How to Get Compensated in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

wrongful death lawsuit

There is a tremendous emotional and financial impact when an accident, medical error, or work injury results in the death of a loved one. One thing you may question is, does the incident qualify for a wrongful death lawsuit? Consider the following:

Medical mistakes cause about 251,000 deaths every year in the U.S. They are the country’s third leading cause of death.

Automotive fatality rates drop when wearing a seat belt. Even taking precautions didn’t prevent 36,096 people from dying in car accidents in 2019.

Never assume you are safe at work. There are many work hazards including slips and falls, exposure to chemicals, fires and explosions, violence, contact with equipment or objects, and transportation accidents. In 2019 there were 5,333 fatal workplace accidents in the U.S. 

Depending on the specifics of each accident, all of the above are potential wrongful death claims. We are going to share what winning a wrongful death lawsuit requires and the types of compensation you can collect.

Proving a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

We gave three examples of incidents that may result in a wrongful death claim, but there are numerous incidents not shown above that may result in an untimely death.

To file a wrongful death lawsuit, the person filing must suffer damages resulting from that death. Only certain people have the legal right to file a claim for wrongful death compensation.

  • Immediate family members—spouse, children, and parents of deceased
  • Financial dependents—anyone who is dependent on the deceased for support, including domestic partners
  • Parents of a deceased fetus—when an unborn child dies either before or shortly after birth due to a person’s negligence
  • Distant family members—grandparents or siblings of deceased

The specific people with the authorization to file a claim vary slightly from state to state. Your wrongful death attorney will know what parties can file a claim.

The plaintiff will need to provide proof of death, plus show the elements of negligence in the complaint.

  • Duty—the defendant had a duty to behave carefully to prevent injury and/or death to another person
  • Breach—the defendant breached their duty of safety and responsibility, resulting in the accident causing death
  • Causation—the defendant’s negligent actions are the direct and proximate cause of the death of the plaintiff’s loved one
  • Damages—that as a result of the defendant’s actions plaintiff is suffering damages

In a medical malpractice wrongful death claim, you must show evidence of the doctor-patient relationship.

Wrongful Death Compensation

There are two types of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Estate damages cover expenses the decedent’s estate incurs as a result of the person’s death.

Family impact damages are those the family members experience because of the impact the decedent’s death has on the family. This includes emotional pain and suffering and lack of consortium.

Damages that may appear in a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Funeral and burial cost
  • Medical care following an accident
  • Loss of income decent would have received in their lifetime
  • Repair or replacement of property damage from the accident
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of parental comfort, companionship, and guidance
  • Loss of household services decedent performed
  • Survivor’s emotional pain and suffering

Some states have a cap on the amount of damages plaintiffs may receive in a wrongful death claim. Neither Arizona nor California has a cap.

Wrongful Death Settlement

Many wrongful death lawsuits reach a settlement agreement before proceeding to trial. This is usually accomplished through attorney negotiations, mediation, or arbitration.

If the case is very clear-cut on fault, attorneys may be able to negotiate a settlement early in litigation. In most lawsuits, the parties do not agree until they are in mediation or arbitration.

With mediation, both parties discuss the matter with a professional mediator. The mediator listens to all positions and then offers a settlement recommendation.

The mediator’s suggestions are not binding. If either party disagrees, the matter proceeds to trial.

With arbitration, the arbitrator listens to both parties and makes a ruling regarding the matter. Most arbitrations are binding, meaning the determination becomes a final court order.

The final settlement agreement or court order will establish the way compensation is paid and the deadline for its completion.

Payout Options for Wrongful Death Compensation

It is common when reaching an out-of-court settlement for the plaintiff to receive their award in one lump-sum payment. This allows the recipient to use the funds for paying outstanding debt such as funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, housing costs, and more.

Some parties agree to have settlements paid out as structured payments. This means the plaintiff receives a series of payments with a specific start date, frequency, and end date.

Depending on your financial circumstances, you may find this regular source of income preferable over one large lump-sum payment. A structured settlement option is a good choice for those who are not strong money managers and worry about mismanaging a lump sum of funds.

Statute of Limitations

If your loved one suffers death due to the actions of another, contact a wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible. They will immediately begin working on your case to get you the compensation you deserve.

In California, you have two years from death to file a lawsuit. If the death is due to medical malpractice the state allows three years from the date of injury or one year from the discovery of the injury.

Laws regarding wrongful death are outlined in the California Code of Civil Procedure §377.60. To prove wrongful death you only need a “preponderance of the evidence,” not “beyond a reasonable doubt” that criminal cases demand.

In Arizona, wrongful death is outlined in Arizona Revised Statutes §12-611 as being “by wrongful act, neglect, or default.” You must file a wrongful death claim within two years of the person’s death.

Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney

When you hire an attorney for filing a wrongful death lawsuit you increase your chances of winning by having someone who knows the law and court procedures on your side.

Sweet Lawyers provides a 100% free consultation and charges no attorney fees unless they win your case. Their 99% success rate and client reviews are impressive.

Call Sweet Lawyers today at 1-800-674-7854 to schedule your consultation. Assistance is available 24/7. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain, so contact us today.

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