Wrongful Death Lawyers
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims are an aspect of many civil law cases. In particular, it is a common aspect of many personal injury lawsuits. Wrongful death lawsuits may be brought by a surviving family member or relative of a deceased victim. They are typically brought against the party that caused the person’s death.
In addition to suing individuals, wrongful death lawsuits may be filed against organizations such as businesses, companies, or even government agencies. While wrongful death claims are an aspect of many civil claims, they can also be an element in criminal cases. Civil lawsuits generally do not involve any jail time; if the surviving family believes that jail time should be imposed, they can press criminal charges.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the surviving relative or relatives may be eligible to receive damages in connection with the person’s death. These can include damages for loss of consortium and other damages.
How Do I Bring a Wrongful Death Suit?
The first step in filing a wrongful death suit is to determine which persons are eligible for bringing a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, the person who may file a wrongful lawsuit is the representative of the deceased person’s estate that has suffered some damages on account of the death incident. This can include a wide range of people, including:
- Immediate close family members of the deceased person, such as their spouse, parents, or children;
- Domestic partners, life partners, spouses, and other similar persons;
- Siblings and grandparents;
- Any other person who has experienced financial loss caused by the wrongful death.
In order to be found guilty of wrongful death, the following elements must be proven:
- The defendant directly caused the defendant’s death;
- The defendant caused the death in a manner that was intentional, reckless, or negligent (or they were strictly liable for the death);
- There are existing surviving dependents or beneficiaries who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit; and
- The defendant’s conduct and resulting death of the person have caused monetary damages to the survivor(s).
As mentioned, civil wrongful death claims can sometimes be connected with a corresponding criminal trial. If the defendant has already been found guilty of causing the person’s death in a criminal trial, bringing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court then becomes easier. This is especially true in cases where the defendant entered a plea of “no contest” in criminal court.
Once the lawsuit is filed in court, the court will examine the various factors, items of evidence, and the overall circumstances to determine legal liability for the person’s death. If the defendant is found to be liable for causing the death, they may be required to pay wrongful death damages.
Some wrongful death claims may be resolved through a wrongful death settlement. This can sometimes be advantageous, as the parties then might not be required to go through the entire lawsuit process.
What are Some Defenses to a Wrongful Death Suit?
As with any other type of legal proceeding, legal defenses to a wrongful death lawsuit may be available to the defendant. These can include:
- Lack of Causation: In order to be found liable for wrongful death, the defendant must have caused the person’s death directly. If the defendant is able to prove that they were not the cause of the death, they might be relieved of liability;
- Contributory Negligence: If the deceased person contributed to their own death in some way due to their own negligence, it can serve as a complete or partial defense (depending on the circumstances and state laws);
- Statute of Limitation: There is usually a deadline to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In most states, the relatives have 2 years from the time of the person’s death to file a claim. If they do not meet this deadline, the defendant can no longer be sued. The deadline may be different from state to state;
- Assumption of Risk: It can be a defense if the deceased person understood the risks associated with a certain activity or certain product, yet continued with the conduct anyway;
- Various other defenses, depending on the circumstances of the case.
What are Some Examples of Wrongful Death Claims?
Wrongful death claims can occur in various circumstances. In general, they are common in any situation that involves an accident, like from a car accident caused by the other driver or a death occurring at a theme park. Essentially any type of accident resulting in death that occurred due to the other party’s actions (or lack of action).
Wrongful death claims are also common in cases where medical malpractice or medical mistakes occurred. These can include situations such as the wrongful death of an unborn child or the wrongful death of an infant. So long as the elements of proof listed above are met, a wrongful death claim can be filed.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Wrongful Death Claims?
Wrongful death situations can be challenging and can happen in many different circumstances. If you need help with a wrongful death lawsuit, you may need to contact a personal injury lawyer in your area. An attorney can provide you with legal research for your case and can represent you during legal proceedings.