If a person dies because of the misconduct or negligence of another, the family members or survivors may sue for wrongful death. This type of lawsuit seeks compensation for the survivors’ losses. Some of the types of losses may include lost companionship, lost wages, and funeral expenses, among others.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
You may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit when a loved one dies as the result of another individual’s legal fault. Examples of such an at-fault person include a driver in a car accident, a bartender who served alcohol to a person who then drove, a doctor or medical professional, or an owner of a business that failed in the upkeep of their property, as well as others.
The statutes for wrongful death vary for each state. Typically, the statutes of the state define who is allowed to sue for wrongful death and provides limits on the amount that can be given for damages. Upon their creation, these types of lawsuits aim to provide financial support for orphans and widows.
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When Wrongful Death Claims Apply
Wrongful death claims may arise after a situation where a victim who could have legally filed a personal injury claim against another party dies as a result of the wrongful actions of the defendant. Several situations may lead to this happening, including the following:
If one person intentionally kills another, a wrongful death claim may apply. For example, if the defendant murders the victim, the defendant will face charges in a criminal case. The families of the victim may also bring forth civil lawsuits for wrongful death against the defendant. The wrongful death case represents a civil matter, separate from the criminal case.
If a doctor fails to diagnose the condition that caused a person to die, or if the doctor acts negligently with the care that they provided to the victim and the patient dies because of this carelessness, survivors may possibly file a wrongful death claim against the doctor and other medical care providers involved under established medical malpractice statutes.
If a person dies as a result of an automobile accident, and investigators find that the person who caused the accident behaved negligently behind the wheel, a wrongful death lawsuit may also apply. Some examples of negligence while driving include: driving while intoxicated, not obeying traffic laws, and reckless driving.
Elements of Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In order to bring forth a wrongful death lawsuit, several elements must be present:
- A person’s death caused by another person’s negligence or by another person’s intent to cause the deceased individual harm.
- Monetary injuries, related to the death, for the surviving family members.
- Appointment of a personal representative for the estate of the decedent.
You must file a wrongful death case within the time constraints set forth in the statute of limitations for the state where the person passed away. However, you may file a claim after this time if an investigation of the death does not determine the cause of action until a later time.
Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Pecuniary damages represent the main measure of damages for a wrongful death lawsuit. This type of damages includes the loss of services, support, medical expenses, funeral expenses, and a lost prospect of inheritance.
Most states, including Florida, uphold negligence statutes outlining who can receive damages, as well as what type of damages the court may award in a wrongful death lawsuit. Often, each state will provide that the award in a wrongful death case represents fair compensation for the pecuniary or financial injuries directly resulting from the person’s death.
If a person who shares in a decedent’s estate assumed responsibility for or paid the medical care and funeral costs, they may recover these expenses. A damage award may also include interest payments starting from the time of the decedent’s death.
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How Hard Is It to Prove Wrongful Death?
Meeting the burden of proof in a wrongful death lawsuit can be a complex process. Your wrongful death attorney will need to gather evidence that will prove the elements of the claim. This may involve bringing in expert witnesses whose services cost hundreds of dollars per hour. Your lawyer will cover these costs upfront and bill you later when you get your settlement.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlement Amounts Determined?
The amount of your wrongful death settlement will be determined by a variety of factors, including the age of the deceased individual. Any damages such as medical bills and funeral and burial expenses will be considered, as will the value of your pain and suffering as determined by using the multiplier or per diem method.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
When a wrongful death lawsuit is settled, the at-fault party’s insurers will send a check for the full value of the settlement to your lawyer. Your attorney will then deduct their fees and other legal costs, then they will send a check for the rest to the survivors of the deceased as per the settlement agreement. They may also give the check to the executor of an estate.
Get Legal Help After a Wrongful Death
If you have a loved one who passed away as a result of an injury or accident that involved the misconduct or negligence of a company or individual, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against those who were responsible for your loved one’s death.
Certain deadlines apply for filing a wrongful death lawsuit, so consider contacting a lawyer right away if you think that the cause of death of your loved one was the direct result of someone’s negligence or misconduct.
Call Ben Crump Law, PLLC, Today
Contact Ben Crump Law, PLLC to discuss your wrongful death lawsuit with a member of our team. We will give you a free consultation regarding your legal options for collecting compensation from the person or party that caused the death of your loved one.