Death is never easy, but if someone else’s negligence caused your loved one’s passing, it can be even more difficult to handle.
Different from a criminal case, a wrongful death claim is a civil matter. The standard of proof is lower but the emotional pain runs just as deep.
Unsure of how to file a wrongful death claim or if you even have a case?
Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of a wrongful death lawsuit and how an experienced lawyer can help you navigate the case.
What is Considered Wrongful Death?
It’s difficult to make sense of death when you lose someone you love, but how do you know if their passing is grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit?
A variety of scenarios fall under the category of “wrongful death”. The basic definition is a death caused by another person or entity’s misconduct or negligence.
Government agencies, companies, and individuals can all be held accountable for wrongful death. Negligent behavior, failing to act the way a reasonable person would, or causing intentional death are all grounds for a lawsuit.
Examples of wrongful death include:
- Automobile accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace illness or injury
- Boating or drowning accidents
- Product liability
If you’re unsure whether or not you have a wrongful death claim on your hands, an experienced attorney can help.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death lawsuits aren’t as simple as just blaming someone else for your loved one’s passing. The parameters of the case need to fit certain criteria.
Here’s what you need to know before filing a wrongful death claim.
Who Can Legally File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Since the true victims of a wrongful death case are deceased, it’s the family members and survivors who seek compensation. These individuals are known as “real parties in interest” and act as representatives of the deceased.
Several people can act as real parties of interest including:
- Immediate family members (spouse, biological and adopted children)
- Distant family members (siblings and grandparents)
- Life partners (domestic or life partners who were financially dependent on the victim)
- Anyone financially impacted by the deceased’s passing regardless of their relationship
- Parents of an unborn child/fetus
It’s important to note that these parameters and all laws surrounding wrongful death lawsuits vary from state to state. An experienced attorney will determine if you have a legitimate claim in your state.
Your lawyer will consider your relationship with the deceased and the circumstances surrounding their death.
Determining Who’s At Fault
Determining who can rightfully file a wrongful death claim is only half the battle.
Before you can file a wrongful death lawsuit you need to determine who’s responsible for your loved one’s death and on what grounds.
There are countless individuals, government agencies, and companies involved in most wrongful death suits. Filing a claim is much more complicated than most people realize.
Let’s use a car accident as an example. If your loved one was killed during a motor vehicle crash caused by another driver, you would sue that driver, right?
Yes, but it’s not that simple.
Did an obstruction in the roadway cause the accident? If so, you can file a claim against the company that built or designed the road.
Was the other motorist drunk or impaired? You may have a case against the bar, restaurant, or even the homeowner who served an impaired driver too much alcohol.
These are extenuating circumstances that most people don’t consider, which is why you need a wrongful death attorney to exhaust every avenue.
Who is Exempt from a Wrongful Death Claim?
While there are plenty of people held accountable for wrongful deaths, there are also certain people and entities that are exempt. Similar to other laws, these exemptions vary from state to state.
One example is government agencies and employees. These individuals are often immune from wrongful death lawsuits. In extreme cases, even family members of government employees may be exempt.
Medical malpractice and product liability cases are some of the most common wrongful death lawsuits. There are countless laws and loopholes surrounding these types of cases.
For example, a recent law made defendants in railroad collisions immune to wrongful death claims. Certain product liability cases involving medical equipment also fall under this exemption.
The legislation surrounding wrongful death cases is constantly changing, which is why you need a knowledgeable attorney to stay abreast of these changes.
What Type of Compensation Do Clients Receive?
Compensation in these cases comes in various forms and are classified as economic and non-economic damages.
Most clients seek economic reimbursement for things like:
- Medical and funeral expenses
- Additional out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of support and income
- Loss of a potential inheritance
- Loss of a shared household
- Loss of parental guidance (if the victim is an adult with dependant children)
These amounts vary greatly from one case to another. Mitigating factors include the life expectancy of the deceased, estimated loss of earnings, and related losses. In many cases, a financial expert or economist will evaluate the case and make a determination on adequate compensation.
Economic damages aren’t the only ones to consider. Pain and suffering and lost companionship (similar to lost guidance for juveniles) are the most common non-economic damages that clients sue over.
The courts may award punitive damages if the defendant is guilty of gross negligence or egregious conduct, but this is rare in a wrongful death case.
You Focus on Grieving, We’ll Focus on Justice
Losing a loved one is a traumatic and painful incident that everyone must go through at one time or another.
Death after a long-term illness or old age, though painful, is often expected. A tragic accident or death caused by someone’s gross negligence is both shocking and unjust.
Do you believe you have a legitimate wrongful death claim on your hands? Our experienced team will evaluate your case and determine how to move forward.
Although a settlement won’t dull the pain of your loss, it will bring some relief and peace to those left behind.
Contact us today and let us handle your wrongful death lawsuit so you can focus on healing.