If you or a representative of your loved one’s estate files a wrongful death lawsuit against the individual who caused the death, you may receive a financial award, but an insurance company will most likely make the payment.
Liability Determines Who Is Responsible for Covering the Costs of Losses
The specific circumstances of the case will determine who may pay for damages related to your relative’s death. In some cases, an insurance company covers the cost of a financial settlement in a wrongful death case.
In 2017, more than 30,000 people died from car accident injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If your family member was killed in a car accident that occurred because another driver acted negligently, the other motorist’s liability insurance coverage will most likely cover your losses.
If the driver who caused the collision that killed your family member was on the job at the time, the driver’s employer may be found liable for the wrongful death. In that case, your family may be able to collect compensation from the company’s insurance policy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nonintentional injuries are among some of the leading types of fatalities. If your relative fell or suffered another type of injury on someone else’s residential or commercial property, your family may receive compensation from a homeowner’s, renter’s, or commercial property owner’s liability policy.
If your family member died as a result of medical malpractice, you may recover financial compensation from a doctor’s or hospital’s malpractice insurance policy.
While it may seem unfair that the person who caused your family member’s death may not have to pay any money out of pocket, you will most likely be able to obtain a much larger settlement from an insurance company than you could from an individual with limited assets.
When the Person Who Was Liable May Have to Pay
In some cases, though, you may be entitled to compensation from both an insurance company and the individual responsible for your loved one’s death. Insurance policies have coverage limits. State laws often require policyholders to have a minimum amount of coverage. Although many people choose to pay more to have higher levels of coverage, some only purchase the minimum amount required in order to keep their premiums low.
If the person who was responsible for your loved one’s death did not have enough liability insurance coverage to fairly compensate you and other members of your family for your losses, the individual may be held personally responsible for the difference. It may, however, be difficult to collect the money if the person does not have substantial assets or a high salary that can be garnished.
Types of Compensation Your Family May Receive
You and other relatives may be entitled to both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages can cover things such as medical bills associated with care that your relative received before he or she passed away. They may also cover costs for your family member’s funeral and burial. If your loved one worked and contributed financially, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss of your relative’s income, as well as the value of services that your family member would have provided, such as household chores.
Non-economic damages cover the intangible things about your relationship with your loved one that you lost with his or her death. For instance, you may be compensated for the loss of love, affection, support, companionship, and guidance.
Who Can File a Lawsuit
Some states only allow close relatives, such as a victim’s spouse and children, to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In other states, members of the victim’s extended family may be entitled to compensation. Some state laws extend eligibility even further and include a victim’s romantic partner who was not a spouse, an individual who was financially dependent on the deceased person, and someone who would have been entitled to an inheritance.
In other states, family members are barred from filing wrongful death lawsuits themselves to seek compensation. Some states only permit an executor or a personal representative in charge of handling the deceased person’s affairs to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate. A payment that is collected can be used to satisfy debts and then divided among eligible relatives.
How the Statute of Limitations Can Affect Your Case
State laws also differ on the issue of statutes of limitations. Each state places a limit on the amount of time that family members or a representative of a victim’s estate have to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In some states, the statute of limitations is two years, but some states have longer or shorter windows.
The statute of limitations may be extended in some cases. For instance, relatives may have more time to file a lawsuit if the victim suffered an injury that led to death but only learned about the injury that was responsible for the death years after it occurred.
Consider Working with an Attorney
A wrongful death lawyer can discuss the accident that caused your loved one’s death and explain your legal rights.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC can listen to what happened to your family member and explain your legal rights based on the laws in the state where you live.
Call us today at (800) 593-3443 so we can get to work on your case as soon as possible and act within your state’s statute of limitations.