The loss of a loved one causes grief, confusion, and emotional distress. It can also leave the surviving family members of the deceased with monetary damages and responsibilities.
If a loved one died at the hands of someone’s negligence or intentional harm, their family can sue the negligent party for “wrongful death” and hold them accountable for the harm they caused the innocent victim.
While a wrongful death lawsuit will not bring back a loved one, if successful, it helps families and loved ones get justice and cope a little more by providing monetary and emotional relief.
In this post, you’ll learn what is a wrongful death lawsuit, what constitutes a wrongful death lawsuit, and how a qualified attorney who knows the law can help you get justice.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Know the Facts
A wrongful death claim takes place in civil court. The survivors of the deceased victim or the person that handles the deceased person’s estate make the claim and can sue the defendant for monetary damages.
If the court rules the incident was a wrongful death, the guilty party pays the survivors the amount of money awarded by the court.
A wrongful death claim is different from a criminal case such as a homicide which the state pursues. In this case, the defendant can be sentenced to prison, jail, or probation.
However, in the state of California, survivors of the deceased may sue for wrongful death in a civil court at the same time a criminal case takes place.
Wrongful Death Law and Statistics
The state of California holds the highest death rate due to motor vehicle accidents in the United States.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports an estimated 36,750 fatalities occurred as a result of motor vehicle crashes in 2018. Many of these accidents were caused by the negligent acts of speeding and drunk driving.
To add, in the U.S., the third leading cause of death occurs from medical errors. According to CNBC, medical errors cause between 250,000 to 440,000 deaths every year.
California Law permits survivors to file a civil wrongful death case when someone causes the death of your loved one. Plaintiffs file wrongful death lawsuits even when criminal charges are never filed by the state.
If you win a wrongful death case, you will receive financial compensation related to the death of your loved one.
Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In the state of California as well as other states, these are the plaintiffs who may file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Parents of a deceased child or fetus
- Domestic partners
- Children or stepchildren
- Financial dependents
- The decedent’s executor or administrator
If you are related to the deceased in this way, you have the right to file a wrongful death case. When successful you will be compensated for losses your loved one suffered.
You can also be awarded monetary damages had that occurred before the death that your loved one could have recovered if they survived.
An example of this includes claims for the injury that led to death that the decedent survived for a period of time. You can also be compensated for claims that do not relate to the death that the victim held the right to sue.
Incidents That Result In Wrongful Death Claims
If your loved one dies due to negligence or intentional harm, you can sue for a wrongful death claim. The following list includes common types of incidents that have led to wrongful death claims:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Defective products
- Medical malpractice
- Firearm accidents
- Intentional acts of violence
- Police brutality
- Nursing home abuse and neglect
- Childcare abuse and neglect
- Construction accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Slip and fall injuries
- Premises liabilities
These are the most frequent incidents that can lead to wrongful death claims. However, there may be others. Speak to a knowledgeable attorney to learn if your claim constitutes a wrongful death lawsuit.
Damages You Can Be Compensated for in a Wrongful Death Claim
A few examples of the damages you can be awarded due to a wrongful death claim may include 1) compensation for the loss of a loved one’s financial support; 2) Funeral expenses; 3) Burial costs; 4) Emotional support and loss of love.
Statute of Limitations to File Wrongful Death Lawsuits Vary By State
When filing a wrongful death claim, the state in which you file puts a limit on when you can take legal action. These restrictions require the plaintiff to file the lawsuit within a specific time frame.
Once this time frame passes, you will no longer be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. It’s imperative to know the statute of limitations for the state where you’ll file.
Remember, the statute of limitations differs from state to state. The time period given can also depend on the type of offense.
The State of California
For example, the state of California requires a wrongful death lawsuit for a non-medical offense to be filed within two years.
However, California allows plaintiffs suing for medical malpractice to file three years from the date the fatal injury or one year after the injury became known to the victim.
The State of Nevada
In the state of Nevada, a claimant must file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years from the date the victim became deceased. Nevada will not permit plaintiffs to file the claim once the two-year statute of limitations has passed.
The State of Washington
In Washington, claimants have three years from the victim’s date of death to file or pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Once the three year time period ceases, you can’t file a wrongful death claim in Washington state.
How An Attorney Can Help with A Wrongful Death Claim
Experiencing the death of a loved one is a painful, emotional time. A wrongful death attorney can help you recover maximum financial losses and hold the defendant responsible for their actions.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Your Questions Answered
After reading this post, you may no longer have to ask,” what is a wrongful death lawsuit?” You know more of the facts and the answers to many of your questions.
A compassionate and qualified attorney can examine your case, tell you if you qualify for a claim, and guide you through the legal process during your wrongful death lawsuit.
If you live in California, Nevada, or Washington, contact Sweet Law today for a free case evaluation. We fight for our clients to get them the justice and compensation they deserve.