What Is Wrongful Death?
April 20, 2022 | Wrongful Death
The death of a loved one is an immeasurable loss that no one should have to suffer. If your loved one died due to the negligent actions of another party, you might be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This claim holds negligent parties responsible for the death of your loved one. You must handle these cases with extreme care and compassion.
It is essential to understand a wrongful death before filing for compensation. Essentially, this is any death caused by another person’s negligent or wrongful act. There are many ways that a wrongful death can happen, and it is vital to determine who is eligible to file a claim.
Another critical element is determining who was negligent or at fault. When filing a wrongful death claim, the surviving family must respect any will left by the deceased, as the will probably named a personal representative.
How wrongful does death occur?
There are various ways that a wrongful death can occur. The reality is that the death of a loved one can happen at any moment, for any reason. There are situations that a lawyer is more familiar with due to years of experience.
#1. Motor vehicle accidents
A motor vehicle accident happens every few seconds, and while you might assume that they can not result in someone’s death, they do. Car accidents are often the most common cause of wrongful death; a negligent driver will likely be at fault. They can cause accidents by running a red light, ignoring stop signs, and other traffic violations.
If a truck driver caused the accident, then the driver or their trucking company can be held responsible for the accident. If the accident occurred due to a defective vehicle part, the part manufacturer might be the responsible party.
Motor vehicle accidents include motorcycles, trucks, buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists. These accidents are among the most devastating you can suffer, especially if you lose a loved one. Distracted driving, impaired driving, aggressive driving, and defective automotive parts are common causes of motor vehicle accidents that lead to wrongful death claims.
#2. Workplace accidents
You probably don’t think your loved one can receive a fatal injury at their workplace. Unfortunately, many accidents can cause a fatality. These deadly accidents often result from faulty machinery, slips and falls, motor vehicle accidents for a job task, and falling objects, among others. These fatal accidents are common among construction sites, but any workplace can lead to deadly consequences.
#3. Defective products
There are many products on the market, and you may think that your loved one can die from using a product. Manufacturers are morally and legally responsible for creating safe products to use. They should be free of hazards and have adequate warning labels.
Instructions on using these products should also include warnings so that consumers do not put themselves at risk when they use the products. There are several ways that a product can be defective and several possible liable parties.
#4. Emergency room medical malpractice
When a person visits the hospital, it is often during times of helplessness and pain. You trust that the hospital staff will treat you with care and use their skills to find adequate treatment options for your ailments. When hospital staff members make errors, this can lead to costly injuries.
A surgical error can easily cause a patient to die on the operating table. A misdiagnosis can cause patients to leave the hospital or doctor’s office without proper treatment, which causes their condition to worsen.
#5. Errors with anesthesia
An anesthesiologist is one of the most trusted individuals in an operating room. Without them, no medical professional performs procedures or surgeries. If they miscalculate and administer the drugs to the patient, this can cause them to die. Another crucial role these individuals play is monitoring the patient’s vital signs. The anesthesiologist will be the liable party in this instance.
#6. Aviation accidents
These accidents will often make headlines as an aviation accident will cause many fatalities. The root cause is often pilot error or a maintenance issue. Liability is often very complex in these cases, and you will need to call a lawyer.
There are certain situations where one party intentionally harms another party, such as assault, aggravated assault, manslaughter, and reckless endangerment. The attack may often be a case of the wrong place at the wrong time.
Any of these accidents can result in the death of a loved one, and negligent parties must be responsible for their actions. You need to call a lawyer after an accident occurs.
Who is eligible to file a wrongful death claim?
As we previously mentioned, there may be a personal representative named or appointed to handle the deceased’s estate. This person will be essential in a wrongful death claim. You might be wondering who is eligible to file and obtain compensation from a wrongful death lawsuit.
The primary parties that can receive compensation for the death of a loved one include:
- Nieces and nephews
- Other next of kin
- The executor of the estate, if there is no family or next of kin
The main criterion is that you must be the next of kin. However, you should call a lawyer as there is a specific hierarchy for who is eligible to file a claim. Being the next of kin is essential but not the only factor for filing a claim.
Are there limits to filing a claim?
As with all personal injury cases, individual statutes of limitations or time limits are related to wrongful death lawsuits. This limit will vary from state to state, and you will need to call a lawyer immediately to ensure you do not miss any of these deadlines.
If you do not file a lawsuit within the allotted time frame, then the party who wishes to file a claim will receive a claim denial without a second look. While some people have tried to file claims after the deadline, most defendants will cite the statute of limitations as a defense for not paying out a claim.
Can I recover compensation for my loved one’s death?
Upon filing a wrongful death lawsuit, a lawyer will seek compensation for damages the surviving family has suffered due to their loss.
The compensation we may seek includes:
- Funeral and burial costs: Families are not only left with a massive hole in their hearts, but they are also now tasked with planning a funeral for their loved ones. You should receive compensation for any expense related to the funeral and burial costs of putting your loved one to rest.
- Loss of financial support: Your loved one was an essential part of your household, and they more than likely contributed financially. We will seek damages to cover lost wages and benefits that the deceased provided to the home and family. These damages will include projected salaries until the point where they are likely to have retired.
- Medical bills: After an accident or injury, the injured party may likely have undergone medical treatment, emergency services, or other forms of care. Many of these expenses receive compensation in a wrongful death claim.
- Estimated costs of lost services: Loved ones will often play a more significant role than financial providers. This loss will also mean that the family loses services that the deceased provided and will have provided if they had not died. These services include companionship, personal advice, care, support, education, and training.
The family may suffer financially and emotionally, and in many states, they cannot obtain compensation for mental distress or grief. Some states cap the monetary damages a surviving family can claim.
How do damages work?
Compensation and damages work differently for wrongful death claims than personal injury claims. When in court, a judge or a jury will determine the compensation awarded to the estate representative. The amount awarded will include a few factors, such as the survivor’s family’s financial and emotional losses and what they will need to sustain their family due to losing a loved one.
Once the court awards compensation, the personal representative will need to determine how to distribute it to the family. If the deceased left a will that governs how they expect to have their estate distributed. There will be a personal representative of the estate, which we mentioned earlier, who will act as a trustee for the estate and the surviving family. They will be the ones to distribute any awarded compensation to the family as the deceased wanted.
If the deceased did not have a will, the process will not be as cut and dried. There may be times when the judgment or verdict of the case will outline the distribution of the compensation. If there is no will and no outline for allocation, the final option will apply. In this instance, the spouse or domestic partner of the deceased will receive compensation. If no partner or spouse survives, it will go to the deceased’s next of kin.
There are several ways to distribute compensation for damages, especially when there is no outline for allocating funds. The distribution process can be complex, which can also cause strife among surviving families.
Proving wrongful death
One of the essential aspects of any case is proving liability and how the accident occurred. It will be imperative to prove how the death occurred in wrongful death cases. These cases can be challenging to prove, so you need to call a lawyer.
These cases are so difficult because you need to prove that one negligent action was the sole cause of the accident that led to a person’s death. A lawyer will first need to investigate how the accident occurred.
We must then prove:
- The at-fault party or entity owed the deceased a duty of care.
- The party or entity then breached its duty of care.
- This breach resulted in the accident which caused your loved one’s death.
You must establish a direct correlation between the breach and your loved one’s death to make a successful claim against the negligent party. While we have described the process as seemingly simple, it is much more complex than you might think.
Will a wrongful death case go to trial?
Most personal injury cases, including wrongful death, are settled before ever reaching litigation or a courtroom. A settlement agreement reached by both parties will often close the claim.
This solution is not valid for all wrongful death cases because any lawsuit can go to trial if the defendant is unwilling to negotiate. You will need to call a lawyer who has the trial experience to ensure you are taken care of if the case goes to trial.
Call a lawyer if you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence
The loss of a loved one is a trying time for everyone involved. The loss can be especially grueling if you consider it caused by another person’s negligence.
While no money can bring back your loved one, filing a wrongful death claim can help bring closure to the factors surrounding the death and hold negligent parties accountable for their actions.
You should call a wrongful death lawyer if your loved one passed away due to the negligent actions of another party. Filing a claim can be difficult since many moving parts and complexities come with these cases. You need an experienced wrongful death attorney on your side to protect your rights and ensure you are getting a fair and just settlement.
You must consider various laws and statutes in these cases, so you will need to call a wrongful death attorney. The right legal team will work to hold manufacturers, vehicle drivers, doctors, and others responsible for the actions that caused your loved ones’ death.
Money will never fix your family’s grief or turn back time. However, at least with the right settlement for wrongful death, you can move forward without all the financial stress and concern your family otherwise might feel.