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Wrongful Death Accident Lawyer

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Wrongful Death Attorneys

 

What is a Wrongful Death Claim?

When a person dies because of the carelessness or negligence of another person or entity (such as a car maker), a wrongful death lawsuit may be possible.  Survivors might be able to seek compensation for their loss, including such things as lost wages from the deceased, funeral expenses, medical expenses, and lost companionship.

Wrongful death claims can involve all types of fatal accidents, from simple car accidents to extremely complicated product liability or medical malpractice cases.  Persons, organizations and companies, and governmental agencies can be legally at fault when they act negligently or act intentionally.

There might be any number of circumstances that might give rise to a  claim, such as:

  • Medical malpractice that causes the death
  • Criminal behavior
  • Occupational exposure to hazardous substances or conditions
  • Automobile or airplane accident
  • Death during a supervised activity

 

Who can sue for Wrongful Death?

Laws vary from state to state, but in general, a wrongful death claim has to be filed by a “representative” on behalf of the survivors who have suffered the damages because of a wrongful death.  Usually, the representative is the executor of the decedent’s estate.  The survivors are called “real parties in interest.”  In different states, some of those people could include:

  • Immediate family members. In all states, immediate family members such as spouses and children (including adopted children), and the parents of unmarried children can recover damages under wrongful death actions.
  • Life partners, financial dependents, and putative spouses. These phrases mean different things in different states. In some states a domestic or life partner, or anyone who was financially dependent on the decedent, can recover.  “Putative” just means someone who had a good faith belief he or she was married to the decedent.
  • Distant family members. Some states allow other family member such as brothers or sisters, or grandparents to bring a claim. For instance, grandparents who are raising a child.
  • All people who suffer financially. Some states even allow unrelated persons who suffer financially from the death to bring a wrongful death action. So even if they are not related by blood or marriage to the victim, if they have lost care or support a lawsuit might be possible.

Who can be sued for a Wrongful Death?

There is a wide variety of people, companies, and government agencies that can be sued for a death due to negligence.  Say, for instance, a person has been fatally injured in a car accident that involves a drunk driver and a faulty roadway.  Wrongful death claims could include the following defendants:

  • The driver (or employer) at fault in the accident itself
  • The builder or designer of the faulty road
  • The government agent who didn’t provide adequate warning about a hazard
  • A manufacturer, distributor, or installer of a dangerous or faulty part of the vehicle
  • The bartender who served alcohol to the impaired driver, or
  • The owner of the bar where the drunk driver was served and then allowed to leave.

 

What about damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Financial (or pecuniary) injury is the measure of damages used in a wrongful death lawsuit.  The courts have interpreted “pecuniary injuries” as including such things as loss of support, loss of services, loss of companionship, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and/or funeral expenses.  A damage award usually includes interest from the date of death.

When determining the amount of damages, juries or courts consider the age, character and condition of the decedent, his/her earning capacity, life expectancy, health and intelligence, and the circumstances of the survivors who are seeking compensation.  Usually the main consideration in awarding damages is the decedent’s circumstances at the time of death.

Sometimes it is possible to recover damages even if the deceased person never held a job.  For instance, a stay-at-home husband or wife, who contributes services, guidance and nurturing of the family.  These contributions can be quantified in a wrongful death action.

Need more answers?

There are many differences among different states’ wrongful death laws.  In fact, determining the state in which you can or should file a wrongful death suit is a very, very important decision.  Some states don’t allow certain types of damage awards, and many states have different statutes of limitation that establish the time frame you have to file a lawsuit.

In some states a plaintiff can’t recover punitive damages in a wrongful death action, but in other states it is possible.  Punitive damages are what are sometimes called “pain and suffering.”

Call the Advocates – we can answer all your questions about wrongful death – and the call is free!

801-326-0809