Wrongful death claims differ from personal injury and other civil cases, so claimants should know the most important things about a wrongful death case, including your rights, statutes of limitations, award amounts, settlement processes, and how a lawyer can help you.
A wrongful death action is a civil claim brought against someone who the law can hold liable for a death. While in other types of civil cases, the plaintiff files suit to pursue financial awards for injuries they have suffered, a wrongful death claim requires a person to file a lawsuit on behalf of a victim who can no longer pursue damages themselves.
People Who Have a Right to File a Wrongful Death Claim
If you suffer injuries because of another person’s negligence, you have a right to file a claim and seek financial recovery for your damages. However, if you lose a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may or may not have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Laws regarding who can file wrongful death claims vary by state, who typically allow certain family members, personal representatives of the decedent’s estate, or both to pursue legal action. In most cases, the decedent’s surviving spouse or children serves as both the executor of the estate and the first qualifying family member, so they can usually file a wrongful death claim for the loss of their loved one.
If the decedent did not have a spouse and did not name an estate executor, states determine the eligibility of other potential claimants and can name an estate representative if necessary. Some states allow anyone to file a wrongful death claim, but they often require all claimants to consolidate their claims into a single lawsuit. A lawyer can help you determine whether or not you can file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of your loved one.
You Have a Limited Amount of Time to File Your Claim
While states carry their own statutes of limitations on wrongful death cases, each allows a loved one at least one year to file a wrongful death lawsuit against another private entity. The time frame often begins on the day of the decedent’s death, but that may vary depending on state laws and the circumstances of the case.
If a government agency’s negligence led to the death of your loved one, you may or may not be able to file a case. As a general rule, the government has sovereign immunity, which means that a civilian cannot sue the government for perceived errors. You should still seek out a consultation with an attorney who can tell you your options.
For example, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows individuals who suffered an injury or lost a loved one due to the acts of a federal employee acting within the scope of their employment to pursue civil cases against the at-fault party. Individuals usually have a far more limited amount of time to file their claims, sometimes as short as three months from the date of their loved one’s passing.
Damages Can Range from Thousands to Millions
Although an attorney cannot guarantee a certain amount for your case, some types of wrongful death claims yield significantly large settlement amounts.
Wrongful death claims tend to result in higher award amounts than personal injury claims do because they intend to provide loved ones with a lifetime of support. However, the settlement amount you seek may range from thousands to millions based on the circumstances of your case. A lawyer can help you assess your damages and determine a fair amount of financial recovery to pursue from the at-fault party.
Wrongful Death Cases Usually Settle out of Court
In most cases, lawyers prefer to achieve a settlement outside of court to save the plaintiff the time and risk involved in taking a case to court. Wrongful death cases usually involve pursuing compensation from an insurance company, and an attorney can negotiate with their team on your behalf to pursue fair compensation for your case. If the parties cannot agree on a sufficient amount, you can try your wrongful death case in front of a jury trial.
A Lawyer Can Help You Pursue Your Wrongful Death Case
If your loved one suffered fatal injuries as the result of another person’s negligence or intentional acts, you might have the right to pursue a wrongful death case. While you may wish to navigate the process on your own, state laws regarding wrongful death claims may present challenges that can cause you frustration and preventable delays. Our lawyers can tell you the most important things to know about your wrongful death case.
The lawyers at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can manage your wrongful death case for you, and you do not owe us any fees unless we recover compensation in your favor. Contact a wrongful death attorney to discuss your free case evaluation with our team.