One of the most common lawsuits followed in the civil court of law pertains to wrongful death cases. These unfortunate events can be defined as the death of an individual due to the negligence of ill-actions of another party, be it an organization or person. Every year, there are over 90,000 deaths in the US alone due to medical malpractice, not including other forms of wrongful deaths. So what can be done to help the aggrieved parties receive justice? The legal system has several statutes in place to help with the loss and damages caused due to such an occurrence. Let’s explore the workings and scope of wrongful death lawsuits.
What defines Wrongful Death?
If a person passes away or is killed because of the misconduct or negligence of a second party, the next of kin or surviving members of the family are within their rights to sue for “wrongful death.”
These kinds of cases demand compensation for the loss due to the death of this individual, be it lost wages, companionship, medical, or funeral expenses.
A wrongful death claim can be filed when an individual dies due to the legal fault of another organization, professional, or individual. These parties may include a drunk cab driver that killed a passenger to the bartender or a club that served drinks to the drunk driver.
Wrongful death legislation may differ from state to state, but they dictate who gets to sue and what damages can be filed for by a wrongful death attorney. Originally the lawsuit was created for the children and widows of such deceased parties to receive financial compensation but has been extended to the rest of the family as well.
Who Can Sue For the Wrongful Death of an Individual?
State laws have made provisions for the recovery of compensation by the individual’s surviving spouse, immediate kin, children, or the parents of a deceased fetus. The recipient of these depends on a state’s statute for wrongful death and can vary from the definition of legal heirs under the state law for inheritance cases. A claim for wrongful death is presented by the decedent’s estate’s personal representative.
How is Wrongful Death Proven in the Court of Law?
To win a lawsuit filed for the wrongful death of a party, the plaintiff has to prove the following in the court of law:
- The death of a human individual
- The death was caused by a second party’s negligence, or the objective to cause harm
- The surviving family members have suffered financially and emotionally due to such a death.
- A personal representative has been appointed for the decedent’s estate.
Once all the four have been proved to the court, a legal proceeding begins.
Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The first category of damage claims in the case of a wrongful death provides for the recovery of damages undergone by the deceased person from the point of such a negligent act that caused their death, until the time of death. These damages can include:
- Medical costs
- Compensation for the deceased individual’s mental/physical pain and suffering
- The deceased’s lost income or wages
- Funeral and burial costs.
The second category of damage claims covers the losses incurred by the immediate family after the death of the individual. It compensates the next of kin for the financial damages suffered due to the loss of income up till the age of the said deceased person’s retirement.
A few states also provide “loss of consortium,” referring to the loss of companionship that a spouse or immediate family members have been deprived of. This is an important provision especially when a young parent leaves behind underaged children or dependent family members.
What to Consider Before Hiring a Lawyer?
As with every other lawsuit, not all wrongful death cases make it to a full hearing before the jury. Due to litigation expenses and the time consumed, attorneys often make settlement deals to avoid such costly affairs. These legal representatives can negotiate better damage settlements than the defendants can on their own, which is why it is necessary to seek a reputed attorney or firm for help.
If you have lost a loved one due to an accident or injury caused by the misconduct or negligence of another company, individual, or entity, you could be entitled to sue for wrongful death against the responsible parties. While selecting an attorney, make sure to check their track records regarding wrongful death cases and compensations to make the best choice.