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What Is Wrongful Death?

What Is Wrongful Death?

Losing a close family member is one of the most difficult experiences a person can face – especially if that loss results from someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior.

If you lost a loved one due to someone else’s wrongful, reckless, negligent, or intentional act, speak with an experienced wrongful death lawyer in your area to pursue the financial compensation you need for all the expenses that arise. Although money can ever replace your lost loved one and the memories you shared with them, it can secure the financial security and stability you require.

A knowledgeable and compassionate wrongful death attorney in your area can file a claim on your behalf, negotiate with insurance company representatives, and litigate your case if necessary.

At the same time, you grieve the loss of your loved one. Your lawyer will do everything they can to maximize the compensation you receive and bring about the closure and justice you and your family deserve at this difficult time.

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When Can Someone File a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit?

Filing a wrongful death case is typically contingent on specific criteria, and one’s eligibility to pursue such a claim varies based on the jurisdiction and local laws.

What Is Wrongful Death?In general, a wrongful death claimant must satisfy the following to recover monetary compensation:

  • Death caused by negligence or wrongful act of someone else – To be eligible to file a wrongful death claim, the decedent’s death must result from the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another party. These actions may include car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, workplace accidents, or intentional harm.
  • Existence of a legal duty of care – The responsible party must have owed a duty of care to the deceased individual. For instance, a driver must operate a vehicle safely and by all traffic laws, and a healthcare professional must provide competent medical care.
  • Breach of the prevailing legal duty – There must be evidence that the responsible party breached their duty of care through negligent or wrongful actions. This breach is key in establishing liability or fault in the case.
  • Causation – The wrongful death claimant must legally demonstrate that the duty-of-care breach directly caused or substantially contributed to the decedent’s untimely death. Establishing a clear link between negligent or wrongful actions and the fatal outcome is essential to prevail in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
  • Damages – The survivors filing the claim or lawsuit must have suffered some form of measurable damages as a result of their loved one’s premature death. Damages may include emotional distress, financial losses, and loss of companionship, guidance, care, or comfort.

Understanding the nuances of wrongful death laws is crucial for those considering filing a claim or lawsuit. An experienced wrongful death lawyer in your jurisdiction can navigate the legal complexities, determine your eligibility for filing a claim, and pursue the justice you deserve for the untimely death of your loved one.

Who is Eligible to Bring a Wrongful Death Claim?

Eligibility for filing a wrongful death claim depends on specific legal criteria varying from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

While the laws differ, certain common factors generally influence who has the standing to bring a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, including:

  • Legal standing – In general, immediate family members such as spouses, children, and parents have legal standing to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. The order of priority among eligible family members can vary based on the jurisdiction.
  • Financial dependence – In some cases, eligibility for filing a wrongful death claim may pass to individuals who were financially dependent on the decedent, including domestic partners, putative spouses, or children who were dependents of the decedent.
  • Representatives of the decedent’s estate – If the decedent had not appointed a personal representative for their estate before their death, the court may appoint one. This representative then has the authority to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the estate and the surviving family members.
  • Children and minors – In cases where the decedent has surviving minor children, they may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. Legal guardians or representatives may act on behalf of these minors.
  • Adopted children and stepchildren – Adopted children and stepchildren generally have the same legal rights as biological children in wrongful death claims. Their eligibility often depends on the court’s recognition of the parent-child relationship.

Potential wrongful death claimants should also be aware of the statute of limitations, which applies to wrongful death lawsuits. The statute of limitations is a specific time frame for a wrongful death claimant to file a lawsuit. Missing this deadline may prevent a claimant from being eligible for compensation, and the time limit varies by jurisdiction.

A skilled and compassionate wrongful death lawyer in your jurisdiction can determine the applicable statute of limitations deadline and promptly act on your behalf.

Common Occurrences that Can Lead to a Loved One’s Untimely Death

Various types of accidents can lead to a wrongful death claim when the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another party brings about a fatal outcome.

Some of the most common occurrences that give rise to wrongful death claims include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents (including car and truck accidents, bus accidents, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents, and bicycle accidents)
  • Medical negligence and malpractice, where a healthcare provider misdiagnoses a patient or otherwise fails to treat them reasonably under the circumstances
  • Workplace accidents, especially those that occur in the building and construction industries
  • Defective products, where a product malfunctions or explodes when a consumer uses it properly
  • Premises liability, where a property owner fails to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition for the benefit of property visitors
  • Intentional acts by others, such as battery, assault, or homicide, which lead to a person’s untimely death
  • Construction site accidents, especially where a piece of equipment malfunctions or a worker falls from a ladder or scaffolding on the job site
  • Aviation accidents, where a part manufacturer, airline, or other individual/entity makes a mistake and causes a fatal accident

Always note that proving fault or liability is crucial in wrongful death claims. A skilled wrongful death lawyer in your area can analyze all of the circumstances, navigate the legal complexities, and determine the viability of a wrongful death claim following a fatal accident.

What Happens During Wrongful Death Litigation?

Wrongful death litigation involves a series of steps aimed at establishing liability and seeking compensation for the untimely death of an individual because of another party’s negligence or misconduct.

While specific procedures may vary, the following steps provide a general overview of the wrongful death litigation process:

  • Consult an experienced and compassionate wrongful death attorney – The wrongful death claims-filing process typically begins with the surviving family members or the estate consulting with an experienced local wrongful death attorney. The attorney will assess the case, review available evidence, and provide legal advice on the viability of the wrongful death claim.
  • Filing the wrongful death lawsuit – If the claimant decides to pursue legal action in the state court system, their attorney will file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the eligible family members or the estate. The complaint outlines the case details, including the alleged negligence, the specific damages suffered, and the legal basis for the claim.
  • Service of process – The claimant’s attorney will legally serve the defendant(s) with process, notifying them of the lawsuit. The defendant(s) then have a specified amount of time to respond to the allegations.
  • Discovery process – Both parties will then engage in the discovery process, exchanging information and evidence relevant to the case. This exchange may involve requests for documents, written interrogatories, depositions, and other legal tools necessary to gather specific information.
  • Expert witnesses – Expert witnesses, such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists, may provide their experience and testimony on key issues related to the wrongful death case.
  • Mediation or ongoing settlement negotiations – The involved parties may mediate or negotiate before proceeding to trial. These proceedings allow for a potential resolution without the need for (and expense of) a lengthy court process. If the parties settle, they will resolve the case without a trial.
  • Trial – If the parties cannot reach a workable settlement, the case will proceed to trial. Both sides present their arguments, witnesses testify, and documents come into evidence. A judge or jury then determines fault and, if applicable, the monetary damages to award the wrongful death claimant.

Throughout the process, your wrongful death attorney can answer your questions, present a compelling case, and pursue justice for the wrongful death of your loved one.

Recoverable Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit

In a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, financial compensation – or monetary damages – compensate surviving family members for the losses resulting from the untimely death of their loved one.

The types of recoverable financial compensation in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit typically fall into two main categories: economic and non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Emotional Trauma, Grief, and Mental Pain Resulting from Loved One's Wrongful DeathFirst, a wrongful death claimant may pursue compensation for all related medical costs that the decedent incurred before their death, including all hospital bills, medication expenses, and other healthcare-related costs.

The claimant may also recover expenses associated with arranging a funeral, cremation, or burial services. These expenses may include costs for the casket, burial plot, memorial services, and other related expenditures.

Surviving family members may also be entitled to recover compensation for the financial support they will have received from the deceased. This compensation includes the decedent’s current earnings and potential future income, considering factors like age, occupation, and life expectancy.

If the decedent provided benefits such as healthcare, retirement contributions, or other perks, the value of these benefits may become part of the claimant’s recoverable economic damages. These additional aspects are crucial to the deceased’s financial contributions and can significantly impact the recoverable economic damages sought in the claim.

Finally, if the decedent performed tasks or services that had a monetary value, such as childcare, housekeeping, or home maintenance, the economic value of these services may be subject to inclusion in the final monetary award.

These contributions represent the tangible economic impact of the deceased’s invaluable roles and responsibilities. Integrating these aspects into the claim ensures a more accurate representation of the economic losses suffered by the claimant due to the absence of these contributions following the decedent’s passing.

Non-Economic Damages

Surviving family members may pursue compensation for the physical and emotional pain and suffering that the decedent endured before their death. Claimants may also pursue compensation for loss of consortium.

These damages refer to losing the decedent’s companionship, guidance, and support. Spouses, children, and parents may be eligible for compensation under this category.

Survivors may also be eligible to recover damages for the emotional trauma, grief, and mental pain resulting from their loved one’s wrongful death. Survivors can also pursue compensation for losing the decedent’s ability to enjoy life’s pleasures, hobbies, and activities.

In certain instances, survivors may receive punitive damages. These damages aim to penalize the at-fault party for particularly egregious conduct and discourage similar behavior. Punitive damages go beyond compensating the surviving family members and are more about imposing a penalty against the responsible individual or entity.

Understanding the types of financial compensation available in a wrongful death claim is essential for navigating the legal process effectively. A knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer can determine the types and amounts of monetary damages you and other family members may be eligible to recover in your case.

Call a Wrongful Death Attorney in Your Area Right Away

Greg Bentley, Attorney for Wromgful Death in Orange County

Greg Bentley, Wrongful Death Lawyer

If you recently lost a loved one because of someone else’s wrongful or negligent act, time is of the essence. An experienced and compassionate personal injury lawyer in your jurisdiction can take prompt legal action in your case and safeguard you and your family’s right to recover the monetary compensation you need.

Your attorney can also represent you during all settlement negotiations – and any legal proceedings in the court system – in support of your legal rights and interests.