In the below article, the wrongful death attorneys at Kherkher Garcia, LLP help answer the most common questions that families ask us about wrongful death, claims, compensation, and how to get help.
FAQs about Wrongful Death Claims
If you have questions about wrongful death claims, we want you to know that help is available. Take a look at the questions and answers below, and contact us if you need help.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a legal action filed by the surviving family members or beneficiaries of a person who died as a result of someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to seek compensation for the losses and damages suffered by the deceased person’s family due to the untimely death.
In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff (the party filing the claim) generally needs to establish the following elements:
- Duty of Care: The defendant (the party accused of causing the death) owed a duty of care to the deceased person. For example, a driver has a duty to operate their vehicle safely.
- Breach of Duty: The defendant breached that duty of care through their actions or failure to act. This could include actions such as reckless driving or medical malpractice.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused or substantially contributed to the death of the individual.
- Damages: The surviving family members have suffered financial, emotional, or other damages as a result of the death.
If the plaintiffs can prove all four of these elements, they may be able to recover damages from the defendant. The amount of damages that the plaintiffs can recover will vary depending on the specific facts of the case.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
Here are some examples of wrongful death cases:
- A driver who is texting while driving and causes a car accident that kills a pedestrian.
- A doctor who fails to diagnose a patient’s cancer and the patient dies as a result.
- A construction company that fails to properly secure a worksite and a worker falls to their death.
- A ship owner fails to maintain a seaworthy vessel and the ship sinks causing a crewmember to drown.
These are only a few examples of situations that may lead to wrongful death claims. There are many different types of incidents that can lead to wrongful deaths.
How do I Prove a Wrongful Death?
To support a wrongful death claim, the following types of evidence may be useful:
- Eyewitness Testimony: Statements from individuals who witnessed the incident or the defendant’s actions can provide valuable evidence.
- Expert Testimony: Expert witnesses, such as medical professionals or accident reconstruction specialists, can provide their professional opinions on the defendant’s breach of duty and the causal connection to the death.
- Documentation: Medical records, accident reports, employment records, and other relevant documents can help establish the facts of the case and demonstrate the defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing.
- Physical Evidence: Physical evidence, such as photographs, videos, or forensic evidence, can be used to illustrate the circumstances surrounding the death and support the claim.
- Financial Records: Documentation of the deceased person’s financial situation, including their income, expenses, and potential future earnings, can help quantify the financial damages suffered by the surviving family members.
Proving wrongful death can be complex, and the specific evidence required may vary depending on the circumstances. It is crucial to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney who can guide you through the legal process and help gather and present the necessary evidence to support your claim.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The eligibility to file a wrongful death lawsuit may vary by state. However, in general, the following parties are typically allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit:
- Immediate Family Members: Spouses, children (including adopted children), and parents of the deceased person are often given priority in filing a wrongful death claim. Some jurisdictions may also include stepchildren and dependents in this category.
- Life Partners or Domestic Partners: In certain jurisdictions, individuals in a committed relationship, such as domestic partners or life partners, may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if they can demonstrate a financial or emotional dependency on the deceased person.
- Financial Dependents: Individuals who can establish a financial dependency on the deceased person, even if they are not related by blood or marriage, may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This could include individuals who relied on the deceased person for financial support, such as a stepchild who was financially supported by the deceased stepparent.
- Personal Representatives: In some cases, the personal representative or executor of the deceased person’s estate is authorized to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the estate and the beneficiaries.
What Damages Can be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Compensation in wrongful death claims is intended to provide financial relief to the surviving family members or beneficiaries who have suffered losses due to the death of their loved one. The specific types and amounts of compensation available can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.
Here are some common types of compensation awarded in wrongful death claims:
These are financial losses incurred as a direct result of the death. They can include:
- Medical expenses: Compensation for medical bills related to the final injury or illness of the deceased person.
- Funeral and burial expenses: Reimbursement for the costs of funeral services, cremation, burial, or other end-of-life arrangements.
- Loss of financial support: Compensation for the income and financial benefits that the deceased person would have provided to their family had they survived. This may involve calculating lost wages, future earnings, and benefits.
These damages are meant to address the emotional and non-financial impact of the death. They can include:
- Loss of companionship: Compensation for the loss of love, affection, guidance, and support that the deceased person would have provided to their spouse, children, or other family members.
- Emotional pain and suffering: Compensation for the mental anguish, grief, and emotional distress experienced by the surviving family members.
- Loss of consortium: Compensation for the deprivation of the benefits of a family relationship, including the loss of intimacy, companionship, and support.
In some cases, if the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious or malicious, the court may award punitive damages. These damages are meant to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future, rather than compensate the family directly.
The calculation and determination of compensation in wrongful death claims can be complex, and it often depends on various factors, such as the age of the deceased person, their earning capacity, the number of dependents, and the overall impact of the death on the family.
Is There a Time Limit for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
There is a time limit for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for wrongful death varies from state to state, but it is typically two years from the date of the decedent’s death. This means that you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to file a lawsuit. If you miss the deadline, you may be barred from ever filing a lawsuit.
There are a few exceptions to the statute of limitations for wrongful death. For example, if the death was caused by the negligence of a government entity, the statute of limitations may be longer. Additionally, if the death was caused by a criminal act, the statute of limitations may be tolled, or paused, until the criminal case is resolved.
Should I Hire an Attorney for a Wrongful Death Matter?
It is always advisable to contact an attorney before taking any official legal action. There are many reasons why you should hire an attorney for a wrongful death claim. Here are a few of the most important reasons:
- Wrongful death claims are complex. The law governing wrongful death claims is complex and can vary from state to state. An attorney will be familiar with the law in your state and will be able to help you navigate the legal process.
- Wrongful death claims require evidence. In order to succeed in a wrongful death claim, you will need to provide evidence that the death was caused by the negligence of another party. An attorney can help you gather this evidence, including medical records, police reports, and witness statements.
- Wrongful death claims can be expensive. The cost of hiring an attorney can be daunting, but it is important to remember that most attorneys who handle wrongful death claims work on a contingency basis. This means that you will not have to pay any attorney fees unless you recover money for your claim.
- Wrongful death claims can be emotionally draining. Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. Filing a wrongful death claim can add to the emotional burden. An attorney can help you through this difficult time by providing support and guidance.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, you should contact an attorney to discuss your legal options. An attorney can help you understand your rights and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Here are some additional benefits of hiring an attorney for a wrongful death claim:
- Your attorney will be able to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. Insurance companies often try to low-ball victims’ families in wrongful death cases. An experienced attorney will be able to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf.
- Your attorney will be able to represent you in court if necessary. If the insurance company refuses to settle your claim, your attorney may need to file a lawsuit on your behalf. An experienced attorney will be able to fight for your rights in court and get you the compensation you deserve.
Get a Free Consultation with a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, contact Kherkher Garcia as soon as possible. The sooner you contact our attorneys, the sooner we can begin working to get you the compensation you deserve.
At Kherkher Garcia, we offer free consultations to individuals and families with questions about wrongful death claims. We understand this is a difficult time, and we are here to help you. To start your consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our online form.