How To File a Wrongful Death Claim?
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When a person dies because of the neglect or wrongful act of another, their loved ones often feel the loss in many ways. Besides the immediate emotional impact and devastation, families may be left with mounting expenses or find themselves facing the world without their main breadwinner.
The claim is typically filed on behalf of the surviving family members or other affected parties against the party who was responsible for the death. While this is usually a period of great sorrow and grief, it is important to make sure that the surviving parties contact an experienced attorney to help guide them through the process and make sure they seek fair compensation for their loss.
Fortunately, you may be able to pursue compensation through a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased, if they would have been entitled to damages for their injuries had they not passed. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you should consult a wrongful death lawyer to determine if you can seek compensation through a lawsuit.
Who Can Make A Claim?
Determining who can make a wrongful death is determined by state law, and not all states grant this right to the same individuals. However, the following are just some of the parties who are typically eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Immediate Family Members: Immediate family members like spouses and children, which includes adopted children. Specifics may differ from state to state.
- Distant Family Members: In some states, family members who are a bit more removed, like grandparents or siblings
- Others Who May Suffer Financially: Certain states will allow a third party who suffers financially from the death to bring a claim, even when they are not related to the decedent by blood or marriage.
- Personal Representative: In many states, the personal representative named in the deceased’s will.
Laws differ from state to state, and therefore it is essential to seek advice from a lawyer in your state that can advise you of your legal rights, how to make a claim and how a settlement is divided among family members.
The Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
When pursuing a lawsuit, those seeking compensation will need to establish that the other party was responsible for the death either through wrongful act, negligence, or default.
Once fault is established, evidence of damages will be presented. Such evidence would include things like medical bills and wage statements. The value of your case and compensation will be determined based on the financial loss suffered.
How to File A Wrongful Death Claim
1. Contact Wrongful Death Attorney
If you think you may have a viable case, it is important that you contact an attorney who has experience in this area of the law. An experienced attorney will be able to walk you through the following steps and ensure that you have the best chance when seeking the compensation that you deserve.
2. Open a Probate Estate
Obviously, the deceased cannot file a lawsuit on their own behalf. Therefore, to be able to bring a claim, there needs to be an open probate estate.
3. Determine Whether You Are Eligible to File
If you are an immediate family member, you may be able to file a claim. However, as mentioned before, states have differing laws on the rights of extended family members, so discussing the laws of your state with your attorney is an important preliminary step.
4. Negotiate with Insurance Company
In most cases, the person at fault will have some form of insurance to cover potential incidents. Thus, seeking maximum compensation for your case will come down to negotiating with the insurance company. The insurance company is a business, and they will attempt to pay out the smallest amount of money that they can, which makes it important that you have an attorney by your side to make sure you are treated fairly throughout the process.
5. Go to Trial
While most cases will end in a settlement before they ever get to the courtroom, there some circumstances in which going to trial will be necessary to seek full compensation. Again, negotiating a trial is very complicated, and it is important to protect your interests by hiring an attorney with experience in this area.
Compensation and Recovery of Damages
In a wrongful death action, the estate or loved one can seek to recover monetary damages from the party liable for the untimely death. Typically, the damages sought will include those that a deceased person would have been able to seek in a personal injury case had they not passed. Such damages include compensation for:
- Medical bills and treatment costs
- Lost wages, past and future
- Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to passing
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of support and guidance
Damages may also be generally grouped into two categories; damages experienced by the deceased, and damages suffered by the survivors.
This category includes damages suffered by the deceased from the moment of the negligent act to the time of their death. This can include things like medical bills incurred, pain and suffering, lost wages, and funeral and burial expenses
This category includes damages suffered by the deceased’s next-of-kin. These damages are typically intended to compensate survivors for their financial losses. Some states also allow damages for loss of consortium or the loss of the love and companionship of the deceased.
Pursuing a lawsuit can be overwhelming and challenging. Having the right attorney will help relieve anxiety as you seek compensation. Remember, you want to choose an attorney experienced in cases like yours, but especially, one you are comfortable with, that is on your side throughout the process.
How Long Do I Have To File A Claim?
In every state, there is an amount of time within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed by, also called a statute of limitations. Typically, this date is two years, but each state has its own established rules so it is critical that you contact an attorney who is well-versed in the laws of your state as quickly as possible if you feel that you may have a case.
Unfortunately, around 37,000 people are killed per year in fatal car accidents, according to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Depending on the facts specific to the accident causing the death, there may be a few sources of liability, including the driver who caused the crash, the automobile manufacturer if the car had a faulty part, or even the city or township if something like a defective traffic light caused the accident.
Fatal truck accidents are a common occurrence. When a truck collides with a car or other vehicle, the difference in size between these two vehicles generally means that the truck driver will come out of it relatively unharmed. Where a fatal truck accident was caused by truck driver negligence, it may be possible to pursue compensation.
Doctors and other medical workers are human, and as such, are subject to human error. A wrongful death lawsuit can result from such a mistake if it leads to a death. Typically, these incidents include things like a surgical error, anesthesia errors, misdiagnosing a patient, or discharging a patient before they should have been.
In the case of an intentional act like a murder, a lawsuit can be filed in addition to the criminal charges that the defendant will face.
Get Help from Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyers
At Zinda Law Group, our wrongful death attorneys have helped many families receive the justice and the compensation they deserved after suffering the loss of a loved one. We have the knowledge, experience, and resources necessary to help you through this difficult time, and as our client, you will pay nothing unless we win your case.
Call Zinda Law Group today at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with one of our wrongful death lawyers. Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.