A wrongful death lawsuit is a special kind of lawsuit brought when someone dies as a result of the defendant’s negligent or intentional act. Wrongful death claims allow the estate and or those who are nearly related to a deceased person to file a lawsuit against the party who is legally liable for the death. Although there may be a fatality-related criminal prosecution, a wrongful death lawsuit is a separate civil action, which excludes any criminal charges. The laws pertaining to wrongful deaths vary in each state of the United States of America.
Various different circumstances, such as medical abuse, motor vehicle accidents, toxic torture, manufacturing defects can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has its own statute of wrongful death, with its own requirements and procedure for bringing a lawsuit of wrongful death. In some instances, some agencies may have government immunity from prosecution for lawsuits involving the wrongful death.
WHO CAN BRING A CLAIM FOR WRONGFUL DEATH?
People who sue for wrongful death must have had a close personal relationship with the decedent. They are known as the real parties in interest. A wrongful death claim is usually filed by a representative of the estate of the deceased victim, on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with the victim.
In all states, a spouse may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of his or her deceased spouse. Parents of minors may also bring a wrongful death action if one of their children is killed, and minors can collect compensation over the death of a parent. Where states start to disagree is whether parents of adult children can sue, whether adult children can sue for wrongful death of their parents, whether grown siblings can sue for wrongful death, or whether extended relatives like cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents can sue. Usually, the further the family relationship is, the difficult it will be to get a legal remedy in a wrongful death case.
In some states, the romantic partner, even if not in a marriage contract, of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim as can anyone who can show financial dependence on the deceased.
BURDEN OF PROOF
In order to hold the defendant liable in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiffs in the claim must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet had the victim lived. So, using negligence as an example, this means showing that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the death, and that the death caused the damages that the plaintiff is trying to recover.
DAMAGES IN A WRONGFUL DEATH LAWSUIT
The damages you will receive if you are successful in a wrongful death suit will vary quite a bit from case to case and may include death-related expenses, such as medical and funeral costs, loss of companionship, loss of decedent’s future earnings or punitive damages if the wrongful conduct was intentional.
For instance, in the event of a car accident, this would cover the time from the incidence of the crash until the ultimate death of the dead person resulting from his injuries to the accident. That might happen hours or even weeks after the accident. The specific damages in this category could include medical costs, mental and physical pain and suffering of the deceased person, lost salaries of the deceased, and burial and funeral expenses.
Punitive damages can be awarded if the defendant has committed a particularly reckless or egregious sort of behavior leading to the death of the deceased. Punitive damage is designed to penalize the defendant and to deter similar behavior in the future. Typically, damages in such cases are usually awarded to children, spouses and parents.
Wrongful death lawsuit is a special kind of lawsuit which can be brought upon by various different circumstances. These claims carry a burden of proof by the plaintiffs and damages received should you win will vary. Be sure to hire educated legal counsel before pursuing legal action.