Experiencing the death of a loved one is never easy. If the death happened due to the negligence of another person or organization, it’s natural to feel as though the other party has wronged you and your family. While nothing can replace the warmth and closeness of a loved one, you may have the right to recover financial compensation for their final expenses, your emotional trauma, and other harms and losses. Learn how wrongful death claims work and discover how an experienced attorney can help with your case.
1. Wrongful Death Claims Are Closely Linked to Personal Injury Claims
The bases of personal injury claims and wrongful death claims are similar. If the deceased person would have had a strong personal injury claim but ultimately passed away due to another party’s wrongful or negligent actions or inactions, you may be able to make a wrongful death claim instead. Common situations involving wrongful death claims include:
- Medical malpractice cases that result in death.
- Fatal auto accidents that involve another driver’s negligence.
2. A Wrongful Death Claim Requires Proof of Negligence
Like personal injury cases, wrongful death claims require you to prove that another party’s negligent actions caused the fatality. To demonstrate negligence, you generally have to show the following:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person, such as a doctor-patient relationship.
- The defendant failed to carry out that duty of care successfully. For example, the doctor may have failed to provide reasonable standards of medical care.
- The death occurred because of the breach of duty of care. For example, the doctor’s failure to provide adequate care resulted in injury and subsequent death.
- The death led to financial losses and non-economic damages, including both tangible and intangible costs.
3. Only Certain People Are Eligible to File Wrongful Death Claims
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a loved one. Instead, only certain relatives and people with other close connections can file this type of claim. Who can file a claim differs from state to state but, in most places, these individuals include:
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse.
- Minor children of the deceased person.
- Surviving parents of the deceased person.
- The representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate.
In most cases, the person at or closest to the top of this hierarchical list may make a claim. For example, the executor of the estate (if not a parent, spouse, child or other relative) can file a wrongful death claim only if there is no surviving spouse, minor children or parents.
4. Wrongful Death Claims Have Strict Deadlines
When you’ve just experienced the unexpected death of a loved one, taking legal action might be the furthest thing from your mind. In fact, you might not even have a chance to think about your legal rights until weeks or months after the fact.
Like many other types of lawsuits, however, wrongful death claims have fixed deadlines. Most states have their own statutes of limitations, which clarify the maximum amount of time you have to make a claim. If you miss the deadline, which usually falls one or more years after the death, you may no longer have the right to file a claim.
5. Survivors Can Recover Financial Compensation for Wrongful Death
A settlement or judgement can never replace the life of a loved one. However, financial compensation can help you cover costs related to their death and intangible losses and harms. Settlements and judgements can include many types of compensation to cover:
- Pain and suffering that the now-deceased person experienced before death.
- Loss of companionship or guidance that the survivors have or will experience.
- Loss of income and employee benefits that the deceased person would have provided.
- Funeral or burial costs.
- Hospital or medical bills.
- Loss of inheritance that the deceased person would have received.
6. Survivors Can Benefit From Partnering With Wrongful Death Lawyers
Filing a wrongful death claim can be challenging, especially if you’re still experiencing trauma and distress. Although some cases are taken to trial, attorneys can settle many out of court. To get the best possible outcome and the compensation you deserve, it’s important to partner with experienced wrongful death lawyers.
At Janet, Janet & Suggs, we have 40 years of experience pursuing these complex cases and getting results, such as a $2 million verdict for the wrongful death of a child due to a medication overdose error. No matter the circumstances of your case, our legal team always strives to help you get the justice you deserve while extending the care and compassion we would want for our own family members.Whether you think you have a strong case for a wrongful death claim or you aren’t sure how to proceed, the legal team at Janet, Janet & Suggs can help. Sign up for a free case evaluation today to learn more about the strength of your claim and what steps to take next. Our legal consultations come with no obligation, so you can get all the information you need before deciding whether to move forward.