Ski Accident Wrongful Death

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 What Is a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim made by the relatives of the victim who has passed away against the person or business that was responsible for the death. Actually, the only action that can be taken against a business that kills someone is a wrongful death lawsuit. The argument is that since a deceased individual cannot file a lawsuit, the family has the right to seek retribution and collect monetary damages.

The majority of states have laws that control wrongful death claims. As an illustration, a statute of limitations is a deadline for filing a claim. While they differ from state to state, they typically last between one and three years.

What Components Make Up a Wrongful Death Claim?

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving family members make a claim on the victim’s behalf that effectively claims that the defendant’s actions caused the victim to pass away.

The survivors must prove the following components present to succeed with a claim for wrongful death:

  • That the defendant was strictly liable for the victim’s death;
  • That the defendant was responsible for the victim’s death;
  • That beneficiaries or dependents survived the victim; and
  • That the victim’s death financially impacted any surviving beneficiaries or dependents.

Who May File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

As was already established, wrongful death lawsuits are typically only allowed to be filed by the deceased person’s immediate relatives (the “decedent”). Although it varies by state, this usually only applies to the victim’s surviving spouse, kids, and parents.

Generally speaking, the following parties file wrongful death claims:

  • Dependent parents (i.e., the parent who resided with the deceased and relied on the deceased for the majority or all financial support);
  • Surviving spouses;
  • Children of the decedent;
  • Named heirs/personal representatives;
  • Putative spouses (i.e., a surviving spouse whose marriage to the deceased was not valid, but a court could find that the spouse had a good faith belief that their marriage was valid);
  • Domestic partners (note that the domestic partnership must be registered with the state where the partners live and now extends to all types of couples, not just same-sex couples); and
  • Minors (aside from their biological or adoptive children) who were living with the deceased

Can I File a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death Following a Fatal Skiing Accident?

If a tragic skiing accident was caused by the ski resort’s or its employees’ negligence, you might be able to file a wrongful death case. The victim’s relatives, for instance, could file a lawsuit against the ski area or slope owners.

It might also be feasible to file a case against the guilty party if the accident was brought on by a party unrelated to the ski resort (e.g., another ski patron).

It is now feasible to sue a ski resort or one of its staff for negligence in causing a skier’s death when it was challenging to do so in the past. This is partially a result of the recent spike in fatalities and traumatic brain injuries. Skiing accidents claim the lives of 40 individuals on average annually, many of them youngsters.

Common causes of ski accidents are:

  • The slopes’ snow equipment
  • Failures of lifts
  • Yet another careless skier (which can also result in criminal charges against that person)
  • Skiers who are not appropriately warned about and protected from hazardous situations by mountain ski patrols
  • Snowmobiles driven by resort staff

What Should You Do If the Ski Resort Says the Victim Signed a “Release Form”?

The assertion made by ski resorts that they restricted their liabilities by having the deceased skier sign a release form may provide a problem for the family of a ski accident victim. In the majority of these releases, it is stated that the ski area is not responsible for any injuries that occur “as a result of carelessness or any other illegal behavior on the part of the snow tubing facility.”

The release form may not bind you, though, as many states do not consider it to be enforceable.

One instance is a recent Pennsylvania court decision invalidating the releases as being against public interests. Read your state’s wrongful death laws carefully for exclusions and potential pitfalls.

What Losses Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

In most cases, family members who sue someone for wrongful death can recover damages for the following:

  • Medical bills and funeral costs
  • Loss of earnings
  • Loss of inheritance due to the decedent’s untimely death
  • Loss of benefits
  • Loss of care, protection, and companionship to survivors
  • Pain and suffering that the survivors endured
  • Loss of benefits

Punitive damages are less frequent but may be awarded when the defendant’s actions were willful, malicious, or egregious.

How are Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Assessed?

Calculating the decedent’s potential earnings in the event of their death can be exceedingly challenging. Each state has adopted its own distinct life expectancy table to make this process more straightforward. These tables were created to estimate the victim’s life expectancy, the length of time the victim would have been able to work, and the length of time the victim would have lived in retirement (if applicable).

A judge or jury can calculate the victim’s loss of earnings and prospective retirement benefits using the life expectancy table and the victim’s income at the time of death.

How Do I Bring a Lawsuit for Wrongful Death?

The “statute of limitations,” which designates the time a person may file a wrongful death case, differs for each state. A surviving person will be barred from filing a wrongful death action in court if they wait longer than the permitted time.

When the victim passes away, the statute of limitations generally begins to run and lasts for at least a year.

If you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a loved one, you should speak with a local lawyer to find out more about the deadlines for filing a wrongful death claim in your region.

When Can You File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Each state has a statute of limitations that sets a deadline for filing a wrongful death claim, as was previously indicated. States like Wyoming and Maine permit up to four or six years, but California, Illinois, and Texas all have a two-year requirement; the District of Columbia and New York have a three-year requirement.

A judge may allow the statute of limitations to start running from the date of discovery in the case when the cause of death is not identified until much later. This is known as tolling the statute of limitations.

Do I Require Legal Counsel to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

To learn more about protecting your rights and available options, you should immediately contact a wrongful death attorney if a loved one perished in a skiing accident and you believe the ski resort was at fault.

A lawyer can guide you through the difficult legal process and explain the merits of your case in light of the applicable state legislation. Most personal injury lawyers take cases on a contingency basis, which means you don’t have to pay anything upfront, and they only get paid if you win.

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