If you have lost a loved one in an accident due to someone else’s negligent actions, you may be suffering from more than grief. You may be dealing with children who were left without the person who cared for them, you may have lost the care and companionship that your loved one provided, or you may find yourself in dire financial circumstances after the medical and funeral expenses that had to be paid and without the income of the person who died. If that is the case, you may be considering filing a wrongful death claim against whoever is responsible for the death. If so, read on to learn more about wrongful death cases and who handles them.
Why Should You Work With a Wrongful Death Attorney?
The best way to go about filing a wrongful death claim is with the help of an experienced wrongful death attorney. Lawyer Hipskind recommends you start the legal process as soon as possible since there is a time limit marked by the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims. Once that deadline has passed, you will be unable to file your claim. Some exceptions can extend this time limit, and your lawyer can advise you as to whether your case falls into one of them.
What is a wrongful death claim, and when is it applicable?
You may bring a wrongful death claim against the party who is legally liable for this person’s passing if you are a representative of their estate or on behalf of the family members who this death has impacted. This type of claim can arise in situations where the person who died might have had a valid personal injury claim had they survived their injuries. Here are some examples.
- When the deceased was killed intentionally.
- When they pass away as a result of medical malpractice
- When there is proven negligence that caused the death.
Besides the above, wrongful death may originate as a result of almost any kind of personal injury incident. An exception may be deaths related to a person’s work or occupation since these cases are handled basically by the worker’s compensation system.
What must you prove for your wrongful death claim to move forward?
Your aim in wrongful death cases is to be able to hold the defendant liable by meeting the same burden of proof that the deceased would have had to show had they still been alive. To prove that there was negligence, you must establish that the defendant owed a duty of care to the person who died, that this duty was breached, and that it was this breach that was a direct and proximate cause of the death. And finally, that this death caused the damages you are now trying to recover.
Who can file a wrongful death claim?
In general terms, wrongful death claims are filed either by a representative of the deceased’s estate on behalf of the survivors who were directly affected by the passing of this individual. The victim’s spouse may also bring the claim, as can parents of minors. In some states, there is disagreement as to whether adult children can also file a lawsuit for the death of their parents, whether adults can sue for the death of a sibling, or whether other more distant relatives can sue, such as grandparents, cousins, aunts, or uncles. The more distant the relationship is, the harder it will be to obtain a legal remedy through a wrongful death case.
What damages can be sought in a wrongful death claim?
There are several categories of losses which a survivor or estate representative may include in a wrongful death lawsuit. Among them:
- The cost of the medical treatments that the deceased incurred as a direct result of the injuries.
- The expenses associated with the funeral and burial.
- The pain and suffering that the victim lived through prior to passing away.
- The loss of the income that this individual might have been expected to earn throughout their lifetime
- Inheritances that were lost as a consequence of this death.
- The loss of nurturing, guidance, and care that the survivors would have received.
- The value of the victims’ services might have been provided to their loved ones.
- Loss of companionship, love, and consortium.
How much can I expect to be awarded in a wrongful death claim?
It is not possible to predict exactly how much you would be awarded in a wrongful death case. The extent of the damages and the circumstances surrounding the case play a role in ultimately determining this amount. Another factor that may impact your payout is the person you are suing and their ability to pay. Generally, claims against an individual result in lower awards than when the defendant is a corporation.
How are wrongful death awards distributed?
Awards are paid out based on who survived the victim. Here are some examples:
- If the deceased was married but there were neither children nor parents, the entire award would go to the spouse.
- If there are children and no spouse, the settlement is divided equally.
- If the only surviving relatives are the parents, they will share this amount.
Your wrongful death attorney can help you understand how the settlement will be distributed in your particular case. Interestingly, these funds are not subject to income, inheritance, or estate taxes.
How long do wrongful death cases take to settle?
Depending on whether your case will be negotiated with the insurance company or within a court of law, you can expect to have to wait between a few months to a year or more. Going to trial before a judge will not only make the entire process costlier, there is no guarantee as to what the outcome might be. You may end up with no compensation at all if the judge or jury does not decide in your favor. Your wrongful death attorney is the person to turn to so you can understand your legal options to get the results you expect.