What Is Wrongful Death?

What Is Wrongful Death?

Every state in the U.S. gives rights to various parties to file what is known as a wrongful death claim in specific circumstances. A wrongful death claim can provide financial compensation for losses resulting from a family member or loved one's death.

Furthermore, a compassionate Vero Beach personal injury attorney can identify who you can hold liable for your loved one's death and hold them liable for the damages you and other parties sustained.

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What Causes Wrongful Deaths?

What Is Wrongful Death

When someone loses their life due to the reckless, careless, or intentional actions of another person or party, a wrongful death occurs.

Every death is a unique tragedy; however, the most frequent reasons for a wrongful death action involve:

  • Motor vehicle accidents, including car, motorcycle, and truck crashes 
  • ATVs and off-road vehicles, which cause hundreds of deaths annually
  • Slips and fall accidents, which are a leading cause of accidental death for senior citizens
  • Medical errors, including the thousands of surgical, medical, and medication mistakes that happen every day
  • Elder abuse and neglect leading to death is always a wrongful death
  • Workplace accidents usually fall under the employer's worker's compensation insurance, including death benefits for the employee's family. However, the family may have grounds to pursue a wrongful death claim against certain negligent third parties.
  • Defective products and machinery don't discriminate when it comes to causing fatal injuries, and wrongful death claims can involve product liability claims. 
  • Intentional violent acts, which include assault and battery, rape, and other criminal attacks that result in death, can be prosecuted by the state in criminal court, giving rise to a wrongful death civil lawsuit brought by the family.

If your loved one suffered fatal injuries in any of these circumstances, reach out to a seasoned wrongful death lawyer who can determine if you have a legal claim. If so, they can take the necessary steps to file a lawsuit.

Understanding a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death typically refers to a situation where an individual dies due to the deliberate actions or negligence of another person or entity.

Given that a deceased person cannot pursue legal recourse for damages, the legal system allows another individual to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court in their place.

In essence, this legal action seeks monetary compensation from the party or individual whose actions contributed to the individual's demise. If the deceased person could have filed a valid personal injury claim had they survived, family members can generally file a wrongful death claim on their behalf.

Determining the Validity of a Wrongful Death Claim

The sudden loss of a loved one is always a profound tragedy, especially when it is preventable.

In cases where the negligent actions or inactions of another party played a role in causing the death, that party may be legally responsible for the resulting damages.

To establish the validity of a wrongful death claim, it's crucial to demonstrate that the other party is indeed responsible for the untimely death.

Negligence in wrongful death cases involves a person or entity either doing something wrong or failing to take necessary actions to prevent harm to others. 

This aligns with the broader framework of personal injury claims, including wrongful death claims, which necessitates establishing the four key elements of negligence:

  • Duty of care: The at-fault party owed the victim and their family a duty of care, implying a responsibility to act reasonably to prevent harm.
  • Breach of duty: The at-fault party acted or failed to act in a manner consistent with how a reasonable person should behave under similar circumstances.
  • Causation: The actions or inactions of the at-fault party directly caused the fatal injuries suffered by the victim.
  • Damages: The victim's next of kin or estate incurred substantial damages, such as medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and the emotional pain and suffering endured as a result of the victim's wrongful death.

Establishing these elements is crucial to building a compelling wrongful death claim, allowing the grieving family to seek just compensation for the losses incurred due to the preventable death of their loved one.

Seeking reliable counsel from legal professionals experienced in wrongful death cases can be instrumental in navigating the complexities of the legal process.

Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Claim?

The eligibility criteria for filing a wrongful death claim vary across states, each defining its unique set of real parties in interest or survivors who can seek damages resulting from the death.

Typically, the representative initiating the claim is the executor of the deceased's estate. However, the following individuals or entities commonly have the right to file a wrongful death claim:

Wrongful Death Claim

Immediate family members:

  • Spouses: Surviving spouses are immediate family members who always have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.
  • Children: Biological and legally adopted children, as well as parents of unmarried children, are generally considered real parties in interest eligible for recovery through wrongful death claims.

Partners, dependents, and putative spouses:

  • Life partners and financial dependents: In certain states, the right to recovery extends to life partners and anyone financially dependent on the deceased. This includes individuals who relied on the decedent for financial support.
  • Putative spouses: Putative spouse refers to someone who, in good faith, believed they were married to the deceased. These individuals may also have the right to file a wrongful death claim in certain jurisdictions.

Distant family members:

  • Siblings and grandparents: In some states, the scope of eligible claimants extends to more distant family members, such as siblings and grandparents. For example, a grandparent who is actively involved in raising a child may have the right to file a wrongful death claim.

Financially affected individuals:

  • Non-family members: Specific states broaden the scope to allow individuals who suffer financial consequences due to the death to bring a wrongful death legal action. This includes those who may not be related by blood or marriage to the deceased but can demonstrate a significant financial impact resulting from the death.

Understanding who can file a wrongful death claim is crucial, as it ensures that all potential claimants with a legitimate interest in seeking damages know their rights. 

Consulting a legal professional well-versed in the specific laws of the relevant jurisdiction is advisable to navigate the complexities of wrongful death claims effectively.

Understanding Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

When pursuing a wrongful death claim, you should understand the damages available to you or other parties, which generally fall into two categories. These include the losses suffered by the deceased or their estate before or as a result of their demise and the losses experienced by the deceased's immediate family members.

Damages incurred by the decedent or their estate:

  • Medical expenses: This covers the costs associated with medical treatment and care received by the deceased due to the circumstances leading to their death.
  • Mental and physical pain and suffering: Recognizing the emotional and physical anguish endured by the deceased as a direct consequence of the incident.
  • Lost income: Compensation for income the deceased lost from the time of the incident until their anticipated retirement or incapacitation.
  • Funeral and burial expenses: Addressing the financial burden the deceased's estate incurred for funeral arrangements and burial services.

Damages for the decedent's next of kin:

  • Compensation for lost earnings: Depending on state laws, this may include financial awards for the income the deceased should have earned had they not suffered an untimely death. The calculation often starts from the date of incapacitation or death and extends to the anticipated retirement age.
  • Loss of society: Acknowledging the emotional impact on surviving family members who can no longer enjoy the companionship of their loved one.
  • Loss of consortium: Particularly relevant in cases where an adult parent passes away, leaving behind minor children who lose the guidance, love, and companionship of the deceased parent.

These damages go beyond mere financial compensation; they aim to provide a holistic remedy for the losses suffered by both the deceased and their grieving family.

Work closely with legal professionals well-versed in wrongful death claims to ensure that all applicable damages are identified and pursued diligently within the legal framework of the specific jurisdiction.

When to Seek the Counsel of a Wrongful Death Attorney

After the tragic loss of a loved one, always promptly reach out to a seasoned wrongful death attorney. Acting swiftly in this critical period is imperative, as it allows your attorney to thoroughly assess the details of your situation and determine the optimal course of action.

When you hire a wrongful death attorney early on, you set in motion a process that can potentially recover damages in a wrongful death claim, with the attorney guiding you every step of the way.

Contacting an attorney right away serves multiple crucial purposes. First, it facilitates the preservation of essential evidence vital to substantiate your claim. 

Timely collection of relevant evidence can significantly strengthen your case. Moreover, your attorney can shield you against the potential malicious actions of insurance companies and adjusters, who may not always have your best interests at heart.

Your attorney becomes a steadfast advocate, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you are not taken advantage of during the complex legal process.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations

A critical aspect to consider in the aftermath of a wrongful death is the statute of limitations, a legal deadline dictating the timeframe within which the concerned parties must file a wrongful death claim.

This timeframe varies across states but is often two years from when the decedent passed in states like Colorado, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas. 

Since the statute of limitations can vary between states, a consultation with a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney in your specific state is imperative as soon as possible so that your rights don't expire.

Keep in mind that if the deceased suffered injuries days, weeks, or months before their demise, the statute of limitations doesn't start until the day of their death.

Seeking the counsel of a wrongful death attorney promptly after someone you love dies under certain circumstances isn't just a matter of legal prudence; it's a strategic move to protect your rights, gather critical evidence, and navigate the intricacies of the legal process with diligence and skill.

What Happens if a Child is a Victim in a Wrongful Death Claim?

Victim in a Wrongful Death

In the tragic event of a child succumbing to injuries, parents have the option to initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. The damages sought in such a lawsuit are similar to those pursued in a child injury claim, including not only the direct consequences of the injury but also the funeral and burial expenses.

Parents must understand that the statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits may differ from that applicable to child personal injury lawsuits.

In the context of child injury lawsuits, the timeframe often extends until after the child's 18th birthday. However, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a minor child may be more restrictive, with only a limited period, potentially just a couple of years from the date of the child's death.

Parents should seek guidance from an experienced wrongful death attorney to ensure compliance with these legal constraints.

By consulting with legal professionals well-versed in the intricacies of the law, parents can navigate the complexities of the statute of limitations and file their wrongful death claim within the stipulated timeframe.

This proactive approach helps safeguard their rights and ensures they pursue legal recourse effectively during an undoubtedly challenging time.

Contact A Compassionate Wrongful Death Attorney Today

Jordan Lulich
Jordan Lulich, Wrongful Death Attorney

Losing a loved one due to another person or party's negligence is nothing less than devastating. These are typically the most complex and emotionally charged civil cases.

No amount of financial recovery can ever replace the loss of your loved one. Still, you and your family deserve to be treated fairly and have your rights upheld. That's where a wrongful death attorney comes in.

If you believe your loved one's death might give rise to a valid wrongful death claim, contact a skilled attorney today.