By Jennifer Wilding
What is a Wrongful Death?
The term wrongful death is a legal term that refers to a death of someone caused by the misconduct or neglect of another person or a business. It’s usually used to describe a situation where a person could have pursued a personal injury claim against a defendant due to their injury and suffering yet is no longer alive to pursue that claim due to the same event that caused their injury and suffering. For this reason, wrongful death cases are civil lawsuits brought forth by someone pursuing justice for a tragic death circumstance where the actions of a person or business can be linked to the cause of injury and death of a loved one.
Examples of Wrongful Death Scenarios
Wrongful death scenarios vary widely, but can include the following types of situations:
• An automobile accident a from drunk or reckless driver results in fatality
• A defect in the design or manufacturing of a product that results in a deadly outcome.
• A slip and fall injury that result in death.
• An equipment accident during building construction work results in a death.
• A fatality caused by a dog bite or other animal attack.
• A failure to warn someone about a known hazard (through a consumer label or other warning sign or signal) that results in a death or deaths.
• A medical care provider fails to provide adequate care to a patient resulting in the patient’s death.
Can I Sue for the Wrongful Death of My Loved One?
Wrongful death civil lawsuits must meet applicable state criteria for the state where the death occurred. An experienced wrongful death attorney in your state will be familiar with the laws that apply in the jurisdiction of your claim.
Wrongful death criteria for each state will include a broad definition of what qualifies as a wrongful death, details on the relationship of the party or parties allowed to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased, details on what damages might be recovered and the order in which they need be recovered, in addition to the time limit by which you must file the claim, otherwise known as the statute of limitations. A common time limit imposed by many states is two years from the date of incident, however, always check your state as this can vary widely. Take action quickly. Once your time is up, you may no longer be able to file your claim.
Your state’s wrongful death statute will dictate whether only family-relative survivors can sue or whether someone designated as a personal representative of the decedent’s estate can bring the suit. When survivors bring the lawsuit, it’s common for this role to fall to the closest living family member(s). In the case of no surviving relatives, a state may permit an unmarried domestic partner to take on this role or may defer to financial dependents suffering financial damages incurred by the death.
What Is Needed to Prove Misconduct or Negligence in a Death
Filing a lawsuit against a person or company for a wrongful death means you must provide information to support a direct link to an action or lack of necessary action on the part of the defendant that led to the fatal outcome. The four common aspects of this support include proof of a duty of care, a breach of that duty of care, information to link the defendant with the cause of that breach of care, and proof of damages to you resulting from the wrongful death incident.
In the event of misconduct, your proof should support that the defendant should be held liable for decisions and actions intended to harm the victim, thus also causing you harm from the resulting death.
In the event of a claim of negligence, your proof will support that the defendant was responsible for care and safety measures that were ignored or overlooked resulting in the victim’s death, thus also causing you harm from the resulting death.
Proving either misconduct or negligence can get you much needed justice and compensation in your wrongful death case.
Monetary Compensation from a Wrongful Death Settlement
The three most common types of damages relevant to a wrongful death claim are economic, non-economic and punitive. The settlement related to the lawsuit judgment is intended to cover the cost of these damages in the form of monetary compensation to you.
Non-economic damages include the losses that we have trouble quantifying in monetary terms because they are related to emotional hardships endured by the victim and caused by the loss. For this reason, often the state guidelines will place monetary limits on these emotional distress damages that are sometimes referred to as consortium.
Economic damages are consequences in the form of money lost due to related medical bills, lost wages to cover financial support, funeral and burial costs, a loss of health insurance and/or retirement benefits, and lost inheritance or other income that will no longer be available to you since the death.
Punitive damages may not always apply, but when they do, these include a cost to the defendant, issued by a court judgement, intended to punish them for their role in the wrongful death and deter them from engaging in this kind of harmful conduct in the future. Compensation for these damages is also awarded to you, the plaintiff, when this applies, in addition to the other substantiated damages.
Most often these damages are paid out after a settlement by insurance companies in a one lump sum. When a defendant is paying out of pocket, however, a structured settlement may be issued to allow them to make regular payments over time.
When Wrongful Death Becomes a Criminal Charge
Because a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil lawsuit, it is primarily designed to recover monetary damages caused by a death. For this reason, a wrongful death charge is not considered a criminal charge. However, in cases where the defendant’s actions were in clear violation of existing laws to cause the death, a criminal charge may also apply in a separate court proceeding. In such cases, when found guilty of a criminal charge, jail time can also be a consequence for the defendant.
Get the Help You Need to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim
We at Join Class Actions and Siri & Glimstad LLP have experienced attorneys on our team that committed to help you navigate the complex nature of a wrongful death claim, providing you with the right resources to position you for a win in your case.
If your loved one was a victim of this kind of event, feel free to connect with Class Action Jen, Jen Malainy, now by filling out this form: Wrongful Death – Join Class Actions
Or call this number and provide us with details so we can evaluate your potential wrongful death case: 440-381-0338