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.
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.
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.