Death is a part of life that everyone fears but will inevitably deal with.
Whether you die or someone you love dies, death is an unavoidable part of life. In some cases, other people are responsible for a death, so these people must be accountable. This is where a wrongful death lawsuit will come in.
So, what is wrongful death and who is entitled to wrongful death benefits? Keep reading to learn more.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is when one person dies as a result of another party’s actions.
A wrongful death claim or lawsuit allows those who were close to the deceased person to seek legal action. While the laws surrounding wrongful death cases vary by state, the most common party to file the wrongful death lawsuit is the family or estate of the deceased person.
What Counts as Wrongful Death?
There are a variety of scenarios that can count as wrongful death.
Pretty much any situation where one person has perished as a result of another person’s actions can count as wrongful death. Some common wrongful death incidents are:
If a person is intentionally killed by another person, this will count as murder and is eligible for wrongful death benefits.
While the person who was killed is not able to collect benefits, close family members in the deceased person’s life can take the situation to court.
Medical malpractice (falling under the category “accidents”) is actually one of the top 5 causes of death in the United States.
Medical malpractice is when a patient dies as a result of the healthcare provider’s negligence. For example, if a doctor misreads important lab results documenting a treatable disease, the death of their patient is their fault. Or, if the doctor or hospital releases the patient before it is safe to do so and the patient perishes, the hospital or physician is held responsible.
If a driver or passenger died as a result of another driver’s negligence, this can also be a wrongful death lawsuit.
For example, if one driver is texting and driving and hits another car head-on, the driver who wasn’t paying attention may be able to be sued for wrongful death.
Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?
Since the victim of the wrongful death case isn’t alive to seek benefits from the lawsuit, who is entitled to the benefits?
A representative of the estate represents the deceased person and the group of people who were close to the deceased person typically organize this. It varies from state to state who can organize the claim for the deceased.
One common law across all 50 states is that the spouse of the deceased person is entitled to the claim. Additionally, parents and children who are minors can collect benefits if either party was killed. For example, if a child died as a result of medical malpractice, the parents would be entitled to compensation and vice versa.
States start to differ by law when it comes to the age of a deceased child or parent and their counterpart receiving wrongful death benefits. For example, if a parent dies in a car accident that was the fault of someone else, the adult child’s ability to receive compensation will vary by state.
Additionally, a sibling’s ability to sue for the wrongful death of their sibling who has perished is more complex on the state level. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins are also questionable when it comes to eligibility benefits by state.
A rule of thumb is that the closer the relationship is, the higher the chances of receiving benefits are.
What Do You Have to Prove?
While a wrongful death lawsuit may sound simple, it isn’t.
There is certain proof you need to have to hold the other party accountable for the death. For example, if the lawsuit is medical malpractice, there has to be documentation proving that the doctor or hospital made a mistake.
This could be in the form of written instructions that caused the death or a receipt documenting when a patient was released from care. The point of this evidence is to prove that the doctor or hospital used poor judgment and offered treatment or care that was negligent.
Your lawyer will help you with this step. They’ll let you know what documents you need as proof. Additionally, with permission, they may be able to obtain certain records for you.
Why You Should Work With an Attorney
Working with an attorney for a wrongful death case is essential for receiving maximum benefits.
If you don’t have the proper proof or statement, the court may dismiss your case. If a family member of yours has perished as a result of another person’s negligence or intentional actions, don’t just let the party who is responsible get out of taking responsibility for their actions.
Choosing to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit is important for getting help with any bills or expenses related to the death of your family member.
The average cost of a funeral is well over $10,000. This isn’t even factoring in the possible hospital bills the deceased party may have become responsible for before they passed away.
Holding the party responsible is important for your own peace of mind but for affording the expenses revolving around the death as well. Losing a loved one is hard enough, don’t attempt to take on paying for the funeral and hospital expenses yourself. Work with a trusted attorney in your area to seek the justice you and your loved one deserve.
Are You Ready to Find an Attorney?
In any wrongful death case, the steps you take following the death are crucial.
So, who is entitled to wrongful death benefits? Well, typically the spouse and parents or children when the child is a minor. In some cases, adult children (or parents of adult children), grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins may be able to receive benefits.
To find an attorney to represent you in California, Washington, or Nevada, reach out to us today.