What to Know Before Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

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When someone you love passes away, it can be overwhelming to think about filing a wrongful death claim–especially when the unexpected tragedy is still fresh in your mind. However, if the death was caused by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing, this may require action that you may not have initially considered.

If you are considering taking legal action for a loved one’s wrongful death, there are some things that you need to know before filing your claim. In this blog post, we will discuss what you should do before embarking on the process of bringing forward a legal case to seek justice and compensation for your loss.

We understand how difficult this time must be for friends and family of those who have suffered an untimely demise due to negligence or outright malice from another person—which is why we hope our post provides some clarity around what steps you should take before initiating any sort of proceedings in court.

Eligibility for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

To be eligible to file a wrongful death claim, generally, you must be closely related to the deceased person. The specific rules may vary by jurisdiction, but the surviving spouse, children, or parents are typically eligible to file such a claim.

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In some cases, other family members, such as siblings or grandparents, may also be eligible, particularly if they were financially dependent on the deceased. It’s crucial to consult with wrongful death attorneys in your area to determine the eligibility of all potential claimants. This will help you make sure that all necessary parties involved in the wrongful death case can move forward with their claim.

Incidents That May Result in Wrongful Death

Several circumstances can give rise to a wrongful death claim. These can include motor vehicle accidents, where reckless or drunk driving could have caused the death of a loved one. Medical malpractice is another common cause—such instances might involve negligence or errors by a healthcare professional, leading to a patient’s untimely death. Work-related accidents, including falls or equipment malfunctions, can also result in wrongful deaths.

Other scenarios might involve product liability, where a defective product causes death. Additionally, intentional violent acts, such as homicide, can be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit. Understanding the type of incident that caused your loved one’s death is crucial in structuring your wrongful death claim.

Establishing Negligence and Liability

For a wrongful death claim to be successful, it’s essential to establish negligence and liability. In legal terms, negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care that a prudent person would in similar circumstances, leading to damage or harm. It’s the basis of many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.

Establishing negligence typically involves demonstrating four elements: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages. The party accused of wrongful death must have owed a duty of care to the deceased and breached that duty, and this breach must have directly caused the death, resulting in damages.

Liability, on the other hand, refers to legal responsibility for one’s actions or in actions. In the context of wrongful death, determining liability involves identifying the party or parties whose negligence resulted in death. This may be an individual, like a drunk driver, a healthcare professional, or even an organizations such as a negligent workplace, or a company that released a faulty product.

It’s crucial to involve an experienced wrongful death attorney to help gather evidence, including police reports, witness statements, and expert testimony, to establish negligence and determine liability in your case.

Damages in Wrongful Death Claims

In the context of a wrongful death claim, damages refer to the monetary compensation that you may be entitled to receive as a result of your loved one’s premature death. These damages are intended to compensate for the financial and emotional hardships you may be experiencing. Several types of damages can be awarded in wrongful death cases, which often include:

  • Economic Damages: These are quantifiable monetary losses that result from the death. They can include medical and funeral costs, loss of the deceased’s expected earnings, loss of benefits, and loss of inheritance as a result of the untimely death.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These are intangible losses that can’t be easily quantified in monetary terms. They might include pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and loss of care and guidance, among others.
  • Punitive Damages: The court may occasionally grant punitive damages. These are not meant to compensate the survivors, but rather to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future.

It’s important to note that the specific laws regarding damages can vary considerably from state to state. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with a wrongful death attorney to understand what damages you may be eligible to claim in your specific jurisdiction.

Statute of Limitations: Timing Matters

The statute of limitations refers to the time frame within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be initiated. This period varies from state to state, and missing the deadline can result in the dismissal of your case, regardless of its merits. Generally, the clock starts ticking from the date of the deceased’s death.

However, there are circumstances, such as when the cause of death was not immediately known, that can affect this timeline. Understanding the specific statute of limitations that applies to your case is critical, as it determines how much time you have to gather evidence, build your case, and file your claim. It’s advisable to consult with a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to ensure you don’t run out of time to seek justice for your loved one.

The Parties Involved in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In a wrongful death lawsuit, there are two main parties involved: the plaintiffs and the defendants. The plaintiff is the party that brings the lawsuit, typically a close relative or the estate of the deceased person.

The individual bringing forth the claim is often termed the ‘real party in interest’ and can vary based on state law. This person is often the executor or personal representative of the deceased’s estate, acting on behalf of surviving family members.

Understanding the legal nuances of a wrongful death lawsuit is essential for ensuring that justice is served. It’s important to familiarize yourself with all relevant laws and procedures, as well as the types of damages you may be able to recover, to ensure that your case is successful.

Moreover, it’s important to act quickly and consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can help you navigate the legal complexities of your case and ensure that you obtain all the compensation you are entitled to. Taking these steps can help bring closure and give your family the justice they deserve.