With over 200,000 deaths caused by accidents in 2020 alone, knowing when you have the right to sue for wrongful death provides financial assistance and some sense of justice for you and your loved ones in the event of great tragedy. Of course, not every case gives you the grounds to pursue a wrongful death claim, and ill-planned cases can turn into money sinks fast.
So how do you know when it’s the right time?
With this guide on what you need to know about a wrongful death lawsuit, we hope to shine some light on those questions. Now let’s not waste any more time and get right into things.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit refers to a civil suit filed by someone claiming that a loved one of theirs was killed in an accident. This accident stems either from someone’s carelessness or direct intent to harm.
Because of the civil nature of these suits, those responsible for wrongful death cleared in a criminal trial can get tried again and held liable in the civil sphere.
The exact details of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit vary by state. For example, Illinois’s Wrongful Death Act states that the personal representative of the deceased (someone who controls the estate of the deceased as determined by a will) is the one who must file the wrongful death claim. Some states will allow children to file on behalf of their parents (as long as that child is over the age of 18).
The Hidden Limit
It’s also important to note that there’s a time limit regarding how soon you have to file a wrongful death claim before the court will no longer recognize it. The rule of thumb for most states is around 1-2 years since the day of the deceased’s passing.
That said, the amount does vary by state, so make sure to check your state laws to get an exact estimate.
When Is It Wrongful Death?
Before you file a wrongful death lawsuit, however, it’s critical to take a step back and analyze your case. First, you need to prove that the death happened either through neglectfulness or deliberate intention to harm.
For example, a doctor who doesn’t check what kind of medicine he gives a patient (administering a fatal dose on accident) would be on the hook for wrongful death. However, you have to prove in court that the doctor gave the wrong medicine because he was too lazy or didn’t store the medicine properly.
If the doctor gave the incorrect medicine intending to kill the patient, that would also fall under wrongful death. A defect in the medicine would cause the suit to fall on the shoulders of the pharmaceutical manufacturer.
The suit isn’t limited to medical issues, either. Workplace deaths caused by employer negligence, automobile accidents…all these and more can fall under the umbrella of wrongful death.
That said, you must prove there was deliberate carelessness or recklessness that resulted in the death. Otherwise, the judge will not view your case as wrongful death and dismiss it.
You also must prove that any surviving family members who would benefit from the money gained have suffered harm. This must stem from the deceased’s passing. For instance, if the deceased was the primary breadwinner of their family, the family could seek damages for lost income.
In some cases, wrongful death suits will help determine the personal representative for the holdings of the victim.
How do Wrongful Death Settlements Work?
Wrongful death settlements tend to exist in three categories. The first category (economic) pertains to monetary damages the death has caused, like hospital bills or various fees.
The second category (non-economic) pertains to distress, loss of companionship, or other emotional/physical damages the death has left you with. Finally, punitive damages get awarded in the event of faulty products or items contributing to wrongful death.
The amount of these damages gets determined by experts your attorney brings on during the trial. They look at the extent of the damages and how long certain events transpired (like time from accident to death) to deliver the court an estimate of the damages. This time gets used to determine an interest of sort, which applies a small multiplier to your damages.
Courts will also look at the pre-existing condition of the deceased, their age, and their economic status. The age and economic status of those receiving damages will also get taken into account. The settlement often gets paid by the insurance company of the defendant (especially when the damages reach into the millions).
How to Find a Wrongful Death Attorney
Now that you know how these cases and settlements work, it’s time to find an attorney to represent you. You’ll want to find an attorney who has the experience and/or a good reputation with these types of cases, as that proven track record will prove an asset in court.
Another perk of bringing in an attorney is that they will know how to help you get the damages you deserve. Unless you’re well-read in wrongful death law, it’s easy to miss out on evidence or claims you could use because you didn’t know they were an option until it was too late.
You also need an attorney who will treat your case with the seriousness and gravitas it deserves. Attorneys who phone it in will not work as hard to gather evidence and prove wrongful death beyond the bare minimum. This endangers your case and will yield you less compensation.
A True Sense of Justice
And that’s all there is to it. Now that you have this base of knowledge on the things you need to know concerning a wrongful death lawsuit, you’re ready to get justice for your loved ones and seek financial compensation from those responsible.
So how do you begin your fight today? Well, contact us and let us know how we can help you with a free, no-obligation legal consultation for your case!
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