wrongful death lawyer

Who Can Receive Wrongful Death Benefits?

There’s nothing worse than losing a loved one.

When you lose a loved one due to the negligence of another person or organization, the mental anguish you feel may be accompanied by tremendous frustration and anger.

Nothing can bring your loved one back, but if someone you love has been killed due to the actions of another party, you may be entitled to wrongful death benefits.

These benefits can include economic, non-economic, and sometimes punitive damages.

Each state has laws restricting who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and receive benefits.

In the article below, we will discuss wrongful death and who may receive wrongful death benefits.

What’s A Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim, or wrongful death action, occurs when a person is killed due to another party’s negligence or intentional harm.

Wrongful death can result from car accident injuries, workplace injuries, slip and fall injuries, and more.

Wrongful death suits help the surviving loved ones of the deceased person with compensation.

The compensation covers funeral expenses, medical expenses, damages from lost finances, pain and suffering, and more.

Payment from wrongful death settlements is disbursed as a structured settlement. 

Wrongful Death Laws Differ by State

Every state has wrongful death statutes in place, but they are not consistent.

Specific aspects of the laws governing wrongful death vary depending on where the incident occurred.

These differences can include:

  • Statute of limitations
  • Types of damages that you can recover
  • Settlement distribution (who is entitled to compensation awarded in the case).

Since the laws vary by state, you should work with a local wrongful death attorney familiar with your state’s laws.

You can speak with an attorney to find out if you have a case and learn about the steps in a wrongful death lawsuit.

lawyer talks to spouse of a wrongful death victim

Benefits of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Holding the party responsible for your loved one’s death accountable can bring justice for your family member and prevent another family from going through a similar situation.

For example, if your loved one died due to a product liability injury, filing a wrongful death lawsuit can result in defective products being removed from the market. 

A wrongful death lawsuit will also compensate family members who depended on a loved one for financial support.

A wrongful death action can compensate for lost wages and benefits that the family would have received had the person not died. 

Compensation awarded in a court might include:

  • Loss of income and future earnings of the deceased family member
  • Loss of benefits the deceased person would have earned throughout a lifetime
  • Funeral expenses and costs
  • Loss of household services and contributions by the deceased family member
  • Loss of love, affection, moral support, encouragement, guidance, and other intangible forms of support

Several factors will determine the amount of lost future income, such as age, health, education, career, and skills.

Experts are used to calculating the estimated loss of income.

Funeral costs awarded are the reasonable amounts paid to the funeral home and other companies for the funeral.

It’s hard to place a value on the contributions a family member would have provided if they didn’t die.

There’s no formula to calculate this amount.

For a grieving family

A grieving family will find having a wrongful death lawyer will make proving a wrongful death easier and ensures fair compensation.

Who Can File a Claim for Wrongful Death?

Typically, only a personal representative or party named in the deceased’s will can initiate a wrongful death claim.

If a person hasn’t been called, the courts will appoint someone.

Part of the compensation awarded to the affected parties is used to pay reasonable and necessary expenses.

These expenses include attorney’s fees, funeral and burial expenses, and appropriate hospital and medical expenses.

The remaining compensation is paid out according to the real parties affected by the death.

Distributions made to family members depend on whether or not the deceased was married, had children, unmarried children, siblings, surviving parents, and other factors

The beneficiaries who can collect from a wrongful death lawsuit are limited to the following parties:

  • Spouse
  • A minor child
  • Adult children
  • Financial dependents that can prove financial hardship due to the loss of the deceased person’s financial support

Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney

Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death in the United States.

These injuries can be caused by drunk driving accidents and other motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, premises liability incidents, and medical malpractice.

No matter what caused the death, it’s essential to ensure the appropriate parties are compensated.

That’s why it’s essential to seek legal representation after a wrongful death.

In the wake of losing a loved one, handling a wrongful death case can be difficult and emotionally draining.

A wrongful death lawyer will make sure you can cover the medical expenses and burial costs as well as other damages that resulted from the death of your loved one.

If you’re ready to discuss your case with a team you can trust, Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is here to help. 

Schedule a free consultation to get started.

Family of a victim of a fatal accident call a lawyer.
Click Here For A Free Consultation

Is It Hard To Prove Wrongful Death?

Losing a loved one is always devastating and never easy to move on from.

Whether you have just lost a parent, spouse, or child in an accident, you are forced to accept a new reality without warning.

When you lose a loved one due to another person’s actions, the loss is even harder to accept.

Nothing will ever bring your loved one back, but if you lost them due to someone’s negligence, you can recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.

How hard it is to prove wrongful death claims depends on the case.

Some wrongful death claims are clear-cut.

Other wrongful death suits require thorough investigation, statements from witnesses, evaluations by experts, and other types of supporting evidence.

In the article below, we will discuss how hard it may be to prove wrongful death.

loved ones mourn the victim of a fatal accident

Understand the Burden of Proof

The first part of proving a wrongful death action is understanding the burden of proof.

Prosecuting attorneys have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases.

On the other hand, in civil cases like a wrongful death lawsuit, the wrongful death attorney must prove that the issue being claimed is true.

The bar is lower and easier to achieve.

A wrongful death lawyer will thoroughly investigate all claims, meet with witnesses, identify experts, and develop a winning legal strategy.

Have Sufficient Proof of Negligence

Negligence is vital in any personal injury lawsuit, especially a wrongful death lawsuit.

If your loved one’s wrongful death was caused by negligence, you must satisfy all specific legal elements of negligence.

The elements of negligence are:

  • The liable party had a particular duty of care
  • The party breached that duty of care
  • The breach led to the accident and injuries that caused the death
  • The death resulted in losses to you

Duties of care vary depending on the type of accident the deceased person was involved in.

For example, a driver has a duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner.

Breaching this duty of care owed can include distracted driving, drunk driving, aggressive driving, violating traffic laws, or other negligent acts.

Companies also have a duty to sell safe products for their intended use.

They also need to warn consumers about any potential risks.

If a company produces or sells a defective or unreasonably dangerous product without proper warnings, this can constitute a breach of duty.

If that breach of their duty of care caused the death of your loved one, you might have a wrongful death case.

Medical professionals also have to provide the level of care that other similarly trained and reasonable professionals would provide in similar situations.

If their actions fall below that standard and a mistake is made, the duty of care is breached, and you may be owed financial compensation.

The final example we’ll talk about is a property owner’s duty to ensure their premises are free from dangerous conditions or hazards.

If an owner knew or should have known about a hazard and didn’t fix it or visitors weren’t warned, they have breached the duty of care.

Once you have established a breach of duty, you need evidence to prove that the breach of duty caused or contributed to your loved one’s injuries and eventual death.

Gathering Evidence to Prove Wrongful Acts

It is crucial to gather enough evidence to prove someone acted wrongfully and caused death, but it can be difficult.

The deceased person isn’t available to testify about what happened. 

That means you have to rely on other types of direct and circumstantial evidence to prove the other party’s wrongful act, omission, or negligence.

Evidence included in a wrongful death lawsuit can include:

  • Police reports
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Your loved one’s medical bills and records
  • Medical expert’s testimony
  • Accident pictures
  • Video of the accident

Hiring a Lawyer To Prove Wrongful Death

Unintentional injuries are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S.

Many of these injuries are caused by traffic accidents, but fatal injuries may also be caused by construction accidents, premises liability incidents, and medical malpractice.

No matter what caused the death, it can be hard to prove a wrongful death case.

That’s why it’s important to seek the help of an experienced team of personal injury lawyers.

In the wake of losing a close loved one, handling a wrongful death case can be difficult and emotionally draining.

A wrongful death lawyer will make sure you can cover the medical expenses and burial costs as well as other damages that resulted from the death of your loved one.

If you’re ready to discuss your case with a team you can trust, Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is here to help. 

Schedule a free consultation to get started.

Family of a victim of a fatal accident call a lawyer.
Click Here For A Free Consultation

What Is Wrongful Death?

Losing a loved one can take a toll on even the strongest among us.

You could be left trying to cope with your loss while immersed in medical and funeral expenses.

If someone you love dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, you may be able to sue for a “wrongful death.”

A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to compensate the survivors for their loss.

You may be awarded lost wages from the deceased, lost companionship, and burial expenses.

In the article below, we will take a deep dive into what wrongful death is and why you need a wrongful death lawyer.

Family mourns a loved one who died in an accident.

What’s a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is filed on behalf of a deceased person.

It’s a type of lawsuit that can be filed when a person dies due to someone else’s legal fault.

The right to file a wrongful death lawsuit is a relatively new concept.

But now, every state in the country has wrongful death laws.

Wrongful death claims can involve all types of fatal accidents, everything from a car accident to medical malpractice to product liability.

People, companies, and government agencies can all be found negligent and responsible for the death of another person.

Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

To bring a successful wrongful death case, the following elements must be present:

  • A deceased person
  • Their death was caused by another’s negligence or with intent to cause harm
  • Surviving family members are suffering monetary injury as a result of the death
  • A personal representative for the decedent’s estate

There are various causes of wrongful death lawsuits.

Each type of wrongful action will require the same basic four elements to prove wrongful death.

Some of the more common causes of a wrongful death claim include:

  • Birth injuries
  • Medical malpractice
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Occupational hazards
  • Occupation exposure
  • Product defects
  • Premises accidents
  • Nursing home accidents
  • Abuse and neglect at assisted living or nursing home facilities
  • Criminal actions such as stabbings, shootings, or other violence

Wrongful death claims must be filed within the statute of limitations, but they can sometimes be filed later using the ‘discovery rule’ if the cause of action wasn’t determined until later.

Burden of Proof

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action, so the burden of proof is lower.

To have a successful wrongful death case, you need to present evidence.

However, you won’t need to meet the standards set in criminal cases requiring a person to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Many steps need to be taken to prove wrongful death suits.

You’ll need to develop a strategy for the case, investigate the claims thoroughly, talk to experts, meet with witnesses, and research tort law.

The legal process involved mediations, demands, and hopefully, a settlement of the claim.

However, if the parties can’t reach an agreement, a lawsuit may be filed, and the case will go to trial.

Man learns wife died in a fatal accident.

Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death?

Most states allow a surviving spouse, immediate family members, children, and even parents of a deceased fetus to sue for wrongful death.

A suit for wrongful death is brought by a personal representative of the decedent’s estate.

Every state has a civil “wrongful death statute” that establishes the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions.

The personal representative can also bring actions for personal injury, pain and suffering, and expenses incurred before the decedent’s death.

The damages awarded from these actions belong to the estate and are distributed to different parties as directed by the decedent’s will.

Types of Damages Awarded for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Wrongful death lawsuits include economic damages as well as non-economic damages.

Punitive damages may also be awarded.

Damage awards in wrongful death settlements include:

  • Pain and suffering damages for emotional or physical turmoil
  • Loss of income and financial support
  • Loss of protection
  • Loos of the prospect of inheritance
  • Funeral/burial costs and expenses
  • Medical expenses, both for the medical care of the deceased and any other injured parties in the same accident
  • Loss of companionship, particularly for spouses
  • Loss of inheritance

Some states cap the damages a party may receive for pain and suffering, while some won’t.

The Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death

Each state sets its statute of limitations, or time limits, for filing a wrongful death action.

Most states give your two to four years from the incident that led to the victim’s death to file a wrongful death action.

The statute of limitations could be as short as one year or longer than four years in certain situations.

There are also exceptions for minors who generally have three years from their 18th birthday to file a wrongful death action.

It’s always in your best interest to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after a fatal accident.

The sooner you begin the investigation, the better your chances of finding clear evidence of neglect or wrongdoing.

Don’t run the risk of having your case thrown out because you missed a deadline.

Contact An Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer

Similar to a personal injury claim, proving and winning a wrongful death claim without an experienced attorney is extremely difficult.

Even if you manage to win it on your own, you still risk not receiving the compensation you would have if you worked with an experienced law firm.

A wrongful death attorney is well-versed in your state’s laws around such claims. 

If you’re ready to discuss your case with a team you can trust, Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys is here to help. 

Schedule a free consultation to get started.

Family member calls lawyer after a wrongful death.
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