Wrongful Death Lawyers
Call (800) 863-5312 to Speak with wrongful death attorneys near you
Losing a loved one is always difficult. Losing a loved one who was injured in an accident caused by someone else is even more difficult. A wrongful death lawsuit is one way to seek retribution from the person who caused the death of a loved one. While nothing can bring back your loved one, financial compensation sometimes helps with the loss and expenses incurred surrounding such a tragic death.
The family of the deceased can seek a wrongful death claim on behalf of their lost family member. This article will explain what a wrongful death claim is and can help you determine if you need a wrongful death lawyer.
What is a wrongful death attorney?
A wrongful death attorney is someone who can assist you if a person dies in an accident because of someone else’s negligent behavior. When a person dies suddenly at the negligence of someone else, they have no way of recovering any financial compensation for their death. A wrongful death claim is a way for a family member to obtain compensation on the deceased person’s behalf.
A wrongful death claim is a civil action. It is an attempt to compensate for the death of a family member and can help cover expenses leading up to the death and funeral. While there is no adequate compensation that can fully replace a family member, the law can help compensate for the financial and emotional loss.
Most claims for wrongful death will arise when someone else acted negligently or intentionally to bring about the death of another. If the person who died could have pursued a claim for personal injury on their own had they survived, then there is likely a strong claim for wrongful death that can be brought by a close relative.
Each state will have their own wrongful death statute which details the required criteria for pursing a claim. Most states will also have a time limit for filing a claim, referred to as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations will vary between states, but it is usually between two to four years from the date of the death.
what qualifies as a wrongful death?
A wrongful death claim can only arise in certain instances and is not available for all deaths. Another person must have caused the death, either negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. The following examples are common instances where a wrongful death claim may be appropriate.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Car accidents are dangerous and can lead to death. Commercial truck and 18-wheeler trucks can also be involved in crashes caused by the negligence of careless or reckless drivers. If the other driver was responsible for the crash, then there may be a claim for wrongful death. Certain examples that could suggest the other driver was negligent or responsible for the crash and subsequent death include driving under the influence, speeding, driving distracted, or driving for too many hours without adequate rest.
Motorcycle accidents are also dangerous as motorcyclists are a vulnerable group of people on the road due to their decreased visibility. Motorcyclists are more likely to die as a result of a collision. Even with appropriate protective gear such as a helmet and thick clothing, motorcyclists are still at risk of suffering severe injury that leads to death or immediate death.
While not every job is dangerous, accidents can happen. Some occupations are more inherently dangerous than others and may pose a risk of death. However, if a workplace accident leads to death and the death was preventable or caused by the negligence of the workplace or another person, there may be a claim for wrongful death. There may also be a claim for workers’ compensation, and in some cases, the family can recover financially through the employee’s workers’ compensation for the death of their loved one.
Assaults or Criminal Activity
If a death resulted from an assault or other dangerous criminal activity, there may be criminal consequences involved, but a family member can still pursue a separate civil claim. If the person responsible for the death was criminally charged for murder or manslaughter, then it may be easier to meet the burden for a wrongful death claim. The burden of proof in civil cases is lower than in criminal cases, so proving a wrongful death claim may be easier than proving a criminal charge if the person was not convicted.
Premises liability refers to the legal concept that is involved when a personal injury occurs on someone else’s property. An injury or death may occur due to a dangerous or unsafe condition on the property. If a death occurred on someone else’s property, then there may be a claim for wrongful death under premises liability.
Products purchased through retailers are meant to be safe or carry an adequate warning regarding their safe use or operation. The failure to warn or the failure to make the product safe for ordinary use may give rise to a products liability claim. A death that occurs due to the use of a product that was more dangerous than expected could be a basis for a wrongful death suit. Deaths that occur from defective drugs also fall under this category.
Death that occurs due to the fault of medical personnel may be the basis for a wrongful death claim. This can apply if there was a misdiagnosis, surgical injury, or equipment malfunction. The failure to disclose serious risks of any surgery or treatment may also qualify for medical malpractice. Nursing home abuse and neglect that leads to a fatal injury could also give rise to a wrongful death claim.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim?
Each state may vary, but ordinarily the qualifying parties that may bring a wrongful death claim are the surviving spouse, the children, or the parents of the deceased. Other parties such as the siblings, grandparents, or other relatives may not be able to file a claim if one of the other immediate family members has already filed a claim.
Certain immediate family members such as children and spouses are usually the primary dependents and are given priority over other family members in a wrongful death claim. Depending on the family member who brings the claim, there will be different types of harm experienced and each will recover based on their losses.
A spouse may have claims available such as loss of companionship or loss of consortium. Loss of financial stability will also factor in if the surviving spouse financially relied on the deceased spouse or if the deceased spouse was the main source of income. Children may have a claim for loss of a parental caregiver or loss of parental support.
More extended family members such as brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, or grandparents can bring a claim in some states, but will likely only qualify to bring the claim if they cared for the deceased person or relied on them significantly in some way. These family members are not usually given preference over more immediate family members, but it depends on the state and the familial situation of the deceased.
types of damages recoverable
While no amount of money can bring back a loved one, financial compensation may help cover the costs associated with a death in the family. These may include:
- Emotional or mental anguish
- Funeral or burial expenses
- Loss of consortium, companionship, support, care, or guidance
- Loss of future benefits belonging to the deceased, such as insurance
- Loss of future earnings by the deceased
- Loss of household services
- Loss of inheritance
- Medical expenses related to and leading up to the death
- Pain and suffering in dealing with the death
Depending on who the deceased was and what their relationship to the person bringing the claim was, damages will be assessed accordingly. If the deceased was an adult wage earner with children, loss of earnings may be factored along with loss of parental guidance. If the children were not financially reliant on the deceased parent or lived in another household, they may not be able to recover as much.
what is needed to prove a wrongful death?
There must be evidence to show that there was a death. The person bringing the claim must also show that they qualify to bring the lawsuit on behalf of their family member. There must also be evidence to show that you or your family has suffered a considerable loss as a result of the death.
Generally, wrongful death claims are brought under a legal theory called negligence. To prove negligence, you must show that there was a duty of care owed to your family member, that that duty was breached, and as a result of that breach, your family member passed away.
Get Help from wrongful death lawyers
At Zinda Law Group, our personal injury attorneys are experienced and have handled many cases involving victims injured in an accident and wrongful death. We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help recover the best possible outcome for your case.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.