The death of an individual is always a tragedy. It can be terribly hard to say goodbye to a loved one under any circumstances. It can be even more difficult if that person’s death was the result of negligence on the part of another person or entity.
When someone dies as a result of the actions of another, the surviving family of the deceased can bring forward what is known as a wrongful death lawsuit.
Through this lawsuit, the family can obtain compensation to keep them going through this difficult time. They can achieve some sense of justice for the loss of their loved one.
How does a wrongful death lawsuit work? What should you know about bringing forward one yourself? Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Anytime a person dies due to the fault of another person or entity, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought forward. There are a wide variety of situations where a wrongful death claim might apply.
A wrongful death might result from a severe car accident, a medical malpractice situation, or as a result of an employer’s unsafe practices. Unsafe products from a certain company could result in a wrongful death, as well as a location owner’s failure to ensure proper safety protocols.
As long as a person or entity can be found to have acted negligently, and that negligence has lead to a person’s death a wrongful death claim should be able to be filed.
This is a relatively new law. When the United States was first founded, there were no laws in place to seek justice for wrongful death situations.
However, over the last 100 years or so, every state in the country has adopted some form of wrongful death laws into their state legislature.
The specifics of these laws vary from state to state, but, in broad strokes, they all work in much the same way. It can be a good idea to look into the local laws in your area and get familiar with the specifics.
Bringing Forward a Claim
Not everyone can sue for wrongful death. In almost all cases, a representative of the estate of the deceased needs to bring forward the claim for wrongful death.
That means a person needs to be appointed a representative in order to take legal action on behalf of the victim and on behalf of the survivors who had a relationship with them.
States differ on who they allow to take on this role.
In all states, a surviving spouse can step into this role and bring a wrongful death action forward. There is no state in the U.S. where a spouse would not be permitted to do this.
In almost all states, parents can bring forward claims for their minor-aged children and children can bring forward claims for their parents.
From there, things get a little more cloudy and uncertain. Not all states agree that parents should be able to sue as representatives for their adult-aged children.
Not all states agree that siblings should be able to sue. The same applies to extended family members like cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so forth.
Even more uncertain is the prospect of unmarried partners being able to bring such a lawsuit forward. In states where a romantic partner can bring a claim forward, they will need to be able to show evidence of financial dependence on the deceased.
Some states even have relaxed enough laws that anyone who could claim financial dependence (even a friend!) could bring a wrongful death claim forward.
If you’re uncertain whether or not your in a position to sue, you should speak to a wrongful death attorney right away.
Damages in a Claim
How much might a wrongful death claim be worth? What can the person bringing the claim forward sue for? There’s a long list of potential claims in a wrongful death case that a person suing should be familiar with.
First and foremost, there are the damages the surviving person can sue for on behalf of the deceased.
If it is assumed the deceased had to suffer through great pain prior to their death? This pain and suffering is something that can be accounted for when landing on a compensation total.
The costs of medical care for treating the deceased, as well as their funeral and burial costs, are also encouraged to be submitted and considered.
The main bulk of the compensation estimation, however, will come from what the surviving dependents have lost as a result of the individual’s death.
Survivors can sue for the loss of expected income and inheritance that they anticipated being able to receive from the deceased. Depending on the deceased individual’s line of work, this could be a very large total.
Survivors can also sue for less qualitative damages. One can sue for a loss of guidance and companionship or the loss of consortium.
Having a loved one disappear suddenly from a person’s life can be quite damaging. It’s important to consider this loss when talking about wrongful death damages.
Filing a Wrongful Death Action
If you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence of another entity, you might want to consider bringing a wrongful death lawsuit forward. The above information will fill you in on everything you need to know about this kind of legal action.
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