From Loss to Litigation: Understanding Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When a loved one is injured or has died because of another person’s negligence or failure to fulfill a legal duty, you do have the option to file wrongful death lawsuits. While such lawsuits won’t replace the loss, getting compensation holds the guilty person accountable for their actions. A lawsuit can give some amount of consolation for the confusion, grief, and anger.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits Can Result From Different Incidents
The number of wrong death incidents and accidents occurring in the United States is staggering. Close to 250,000 deaths occur because of medical malpractice and errors. However, just 3,046 claims or 5% of the victims’ families, receive fair compensation. Accidents and injuries leading to death can also result from slip-and-fall incidents, workplace hazards, road crashes, and more. Families have the legal right to file lawsuits for monetary compensation, but for that to happen, you’ll need to retain the services of reputable litigators.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
Wrongful death lawsuits are not criminal in nature but are termed as any death resulting from “the negligent, willful, or wrongful act, neglect, omission, or default of another.” For starters, know that wrongful death laws and damages vary from state to state. Accordingly, you’ll look for law firms that specialize in and are knowledgeable about such cases. Also, know that the statute of limitation applies to such cases, and you have a deadline of one to three years within which you can file the suit. This deadline also varies according to the particular state where the incident has occurred.
How Wrongful Death Claims Progress
Most wrongful death lawsuits are filed in addition to or after personal injury cases. As explained above, such cases are civil and not criminal and require a lower burden of proof. Your lawyer focuses on proving that the defendant has committed willful negligence. Their focus is on proving that the accused had a duty to the victim, which they breached. This breach has resulted in the injury that caused death. Depending on the type of incident, the law may require that the victim has died within a year of the date of the accident. Only then will the court accept a wrongful death claim.
Choosing the Right Law Firm
The importance of choosing the right law firm cannot be stressed enough. Aside from expertise in the laws of your state, you’ll also check for their track records of successful outcomes. While asking for recommendations from friends and families is a great start, you can also check sites like Nolo-com for listings. Ensure that one of the reasons they’re top-rated is prompt communication and a friendly and forthcoming attitude. Look for lawyers who can dedicate enough time to gather evidence for your case and provide regular updates on the progress.
Who Can File Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Typically, immediate family members, such as children, parents, and the surviving spouse, can file for damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Again, laws may vary according to the state statutes. But know that any named beneficiaries in a will are not permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they are not family. Any person representing the deceased’s estate can file a claim. Whatever damages are paid are then distributed according to the directives in the will or state laws for intestacy.
Categories of Wrongful Death Cases
- Car accidents resulting from Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and traffic mishaps, even though fatal, are not always considered criminal cases. Survivors are understandably frustrated since the culprit is acquitted in a criminal trial. A wrongful death can offer some consolation.
- Mass torts or class action suits are often brought by large groups of family members who have lost a loved one because of defective products. If consuming or using the products has caused injuries and death, you can bring a lawsuit against the manufacturer.
- If a defendant has been found not guilty in a criminal trial, the victim’s family can approach the court and file a civil trial for compensation.
- Negligence, errors, and lack of diligence by doctors and healthcare professionals can lead not only to death but also to expensive medical bills. Families can appeal to the law to get answers to their questions and get help with paying for medical expenses.
- The law expects employers to provide a safe workplace environment that is free of any risks and hazards. Breaching this duty can lead to fatal accidents, and the victim’s families can demand compensation.
Typical Damages Awarded
Damages in wrongful death lawsuits are economic and non-economic. Economic damages include loss of the future wages and earnings of the deceased, funeral costs, medical bills, and any other monetary expenses the family may have incurred. Non-economic costs include emotional distress, loss of a parent, or loss of spousal companionship. Punitive damages typically don’t apply in such cases.
When it comes to wrongful death lawsuits, your best chance at getting fair compensation is to retain the services of top-notch law firms. Trust in their expertise to take your case in the right direction.