Wrongful Death and What it Means for Victims
Why Choose Injury Law Rights as Your Wrongful Death Lawyer
Dealing with a family tragedy is never easy but when someone’s death revolved around a situation or circumstance that led to his or her death, it is even more tragic. During these times, you need to take care of your family but you also need a wrongful death lawyer that will be compassionate and protect your interests to ensure your family does not endure financial burdens brought on by the negligence or carelessness of another party. We fight for our clients who have lost loved ones so you can concentrate on what matters most… your family.
What is Wrongful Death?
The Cornell Law School defines wrongful death as a “tortious injury that caused someone’s death.” This is a wrongful act, neglect, or the fault of one party resulting in the death of another. Due to the fact the alleged victim in the case is deceased, wrongful death suits are filed by surviving family members or friends.
Wrongful death suits are considered civil cases rather than criminal cases (although criminal cases may be or have been filed as well). The difference here is that the family of the victim is responsible for filing the case in a civil suit whereas the state would file the case in a criminal matter. A second difference in the case is that the filing party can ONLY seek monetary damages, not criminal penalties, such as jail time. An ongoing criminal case against the defendant or a case that has already been decided, even if the defendant was found not guilty in a criminal case, is irrelevant to your ability to file a wrongful death suit (such as the O.J. Simpson case).
The most common types of wrongful death suits are:
- Auto accidents
- Birth injuries
- Fires and explosions
- Medical malpractice
- Nursing home negligence
- Pedestrian accidents
- Premises liability
- Workplace accidents
Who Files a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Obviously, the victim in this case is deceased, but that does not let the defendant off the hook in a wrongful death suit. These cases are usually filed by surviving family members or, in cases where no family members are living, close friends or partners can also file the suit. The representative filing the suit, however, must be approved by a probate court located in the county where the deceased either lived or owned property.
The individuals that can file a wrongful death suit are:
- Children of the deceased’s spouse (stepchildren)
- Anyone left property in the will (this includes non-family members)
If there is no will present, those living members that would inherit the estate are then eligible to file the suit (this could then extend down to secondary relatives, such as an aunt, uncle, cousin).
Once the representative in the case is determined, that individual must notify all other family members about the claim within 30 days of the filing of the wrongful death suit. Those family members will then have 60 days to notify the representative of any damages they feel they are due from the wrongful death case. Once the deadline has passed, they forfeit their right to said damages.
Who Receives the Judgment?
In most cases, the family members of the deceased will come to a pre-arranged agreement regarding the distribution of the settlement. If the family members are unable to agree, the distribution will be determined after a formal hearing.
What Compensation is Included in Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The plaintiff in a wrongful death lawsuit is entitled to both economic and non-economic losses. These include but are not limited to:
- Costs related to property damage
- Hospital, medical, and funeral expenses
- Loss of work benefits (i.e. health insurance, retirement benefits)
- Loss of household services (i.e. household chores, transportation, yard work, etc.)
- Loss of earnings and financial support (usually including reasonable future earnings – this figure is generally determined by a professional to determine income less expected taxes as well as adjusting for inflation)
- Loss of companionship/relationship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of emotional/moral support
- Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death
If a family member was witness to the death, he or she may also be entitled to damages related to the emotional/psychological trauma of witnessing the event.
Just as in other lawsuits of this nature, all expenses are paid before the judgment itself is divided between the attorney and plaintiff(s). This would include legal expenses as a result of the case as well as any expenses that were either fronted by the law firm, paid for by the plaintiff, or expenses that were arranged to be paid from the settlement itself. For instance, if you have already paid for the funeral and medical bills out of your pocket, you would be reimbursed for those costs out the settlement before the rest of the judgment was paid out.
Do You Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If a loved one has been killed due to the negligence of another, it is vital that you contact a STATE wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you receive the compensation and benefits you are entitled to as a result of the accidental/wrongful death. To speak to one of our wrongful death attorneys, please call us at 855.633.0888. If you would like to learn more about our legal services before contacting us, please click here. Remember, your consultation is free of charge and you are under no obligation to use our legal services for discussing your case, so let us help you today!