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Wrongful Death Lawyer

Wrongful Death at WRZ Law

It’s a preventable death that didn’t have to happen, but occurs because of someone else’s negligence or an intentional action. If you’ve lost a loved one under these circumstances, you may have a case of wrongful death.

In essence, a wrongful death claim is a personal injury claim on behalf of a deceased person. It’s the claim the person could have made had they survived the accident, and includes many of the same types of damages.

The person responsible for the death of the decedent may also be charged with a crime, such as drunk driving. A criminal trial is separate from a wrongful death claim, which is a civil case.

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FAQs About Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Definition of Wrongful Death

The term “wrongful death” means that a person died due to someone else’s negligence, and that the death was preventable.

A wrongful death claim can be filed for any accident that caused the person’s death. This can include:

  • Vehicular accidents
  • Accidents in the workplace
  • Medical malpractice
  • Product Liability
  • Other types of incidents that result in the death of a person

Every state has laws pertaining to wrongful death, along with an accompanying time limit, or “statute of limitations.” Because it’s essential to file your claim before that deadline, it’s important to find an attorney in your area as soon as possible to begin building your case, and filing it as necessary.

Proving Wrongful Death

The four elements to proving a wrongful death case are similar to those in other personal injury cases:

  • That the defendant had a duty of care to prevent the accident, or prevent harm to another person; this is unique to every case
  • That the defendant breached the duty of care, such as not paying attention while driving
  • That the breach of the duty was a direct cause of the accident and the harm to the decedent
  • That the decedent suffered damages as a direct result of the defendant’s breach of duty of care

In this type of case, causation and breach of duty are presumed to have caused the damages that led to the death of the decedent.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Because a wrongful death claim is intended to compensate a family for losses, only someone related to or close to the deceased can file a claim. The losses are both economic and non-economic. A claim can be filed by:

  • The deceased’s surviving spouse
  • Surviving children
  • Parents of unmarried children
  • Siblings, grandparents or other distant relatives (in the absence of an immediate family member)
  • Domestic and life partners
  • Other designated beneficiaries
  • Others who will suffer financially as a result of the person’s death
  • Other legal “heirs” if there are no spouses, children or parents, and no legal will exists

In states that recognize common-law marriage, the court will decide if a qualified marriage exists based on available evidence. For couples in a qualified common-law marriage that move to a different state, they are considered legally married, just as if they had a wedding ceremony. Therefore, a valid common-law spouse can file a claim for wrongful death.

Some states utilize a system called “loss to estate,” meaning that only a person’s estate can file a wrongful death claim. The probate court appoints a representative for the estate, who files a suit against the party at fault, but under their own name. Any settlement is distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate through a special trust created for disbursement of the settlement.

Wrongful Death Damages

When someone files a personal injury claim after an accident, they request damages to cover their expenses. So when a surviving relative or beneficiary files a wrongful death claim, they can request many of the same damages that the deceased would have requested as well as those unique to the case.

Because the claim is filed by someone other than the deceased, they can request three types of damages:

  • Economic
  • Non-economic
  • Punitive

Economic damages are the value of financial contributions that the deceased would have made if he or she lived, including:

  • Accident-related medical expenses
  • Related funeral expenses
  • Lost wages from the deceased, including future wages and earnings
  • Lost benefits such as health insurance, pension plan, etc.
  • Value of any goods and services the deceased would have provided
  • Lost inheritance due to an early death

Non-economic damages are still monetary but not compensatory:

  • Pain and suffering, mental anguish for the survivors
  • Loss of consortium for the surviving spouse
  • Loss of care, nurturing, protection, etc.
  • Loss of love and companionship

Punitive damages are damages awarded to the plaintiff as a punishment to the defendant. Not all states allow punitive damages in accidents and wrongful death cases. However, in cases of nursing home abuse and wrongful deaths, the court may award “treble” damages, which may be as high as three times the amount of damages.

Some states also allow for the award of some attorney’s fees on the damages, from the time they began until they are collected. Survivors may also seek reimbursement for attorney’s fees related to filing of the lawsuit itself.

A wrongful death attorney can explain what damages are available in your state, and help you through the process.

The unexpected death of a loved one involving negligence is particularly painful. Because a wrongful death case is complicated, working with an attorney makes the process easier for you. An experienced attorney can determine the value of your case so that you can receive the compensation you need. Our attorneys will focus on the case itself so that you can focus on healing and moving forward.

You don’t have to deal with this yourself. Our wrongful death attorneys can help you recover damages on behalf of your loved one for you and your family. Contact us today.

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