The law offers legal recourse to victims of a wrongful death. Wrongful death is a special claim under the personal injury law. These claims are made against the defendants whose actions have resulted in a wrongful death. The suit can be filed by the surviving estate, or through a representative of their choice. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there were 136,053 unintentional death injuries reported in 2014. If you have been affected as a result of a wrongful death, you should click here to learn about your legal options. For starters, it is good to establish when a wrongful death claim is applicable.
Situations that can warrant a wrongful death claim
Ideally, a wrongful death claim is enforceable where an individual who would have otherwise had grounds to file for a personal injury dies. There are several instances when this can happen. Fatal car accidents as a result of negligence are the most common claims.
When a person dies as a result of medical malpractice, then they can file a wrongful death claim. This is enforceable if the doctor failed to meet the level of care expected and his negligent actions resulted in the death of the patient.
Wrongful death claims can also stem from defective products, slip and fall accidents and malicious actions. However, if the accident occurred at work, then these cases are handled under the worker’s compensation system.
Can anyone file a wrongful death claim?
Personal injury and wrongful death cases are normally determined under common law. This means that every state has its own regulation and guidelines. The standard practice is that representatives of the surviving estate make a claim on behalf of the survivors. All states allow for the spouse of the deceased to file a claim. Parents of minors who have suffered a wrongful death can also make a claim. Disparity as to who can file kicks in when determining whether adult children or close relatives such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins can sue. Usually, the courts may allow if the claimant demonstrates that a strong relationship existed between him or her and the deceased. In most cases, the courts can allow if there was a strong financial dependence.
Given that the laws are not fixed. It is best for claimants to consult with a wrongful death lawyer. For starters, the lawyers will assess the merits of the case and then advise the survivors accordingly. Personal injury laws are complicated even when the circumstances seem clear; There are certain things that the plaintiff must prove.
Proving a wrongful death claim
For the courts to hold the defendant liable, the plaintiff must first demonstrate that a duty of care existed between the deceased and the defendant. They must also bring evidence to show that the defendant acted negligently. The plaintiff must also show a direct and proximate reason for the death of the victim. This means that the plaintiff must assume the burden of proof on behalf of the deceased party. Once this is satisfied, the court can award damages.
Wrongful death damages
In a wrongful death claim, the courts can award different damages depending on what the plaintiff is able to prove. Some of the common damages awarded include pre-death pain, burial and funeral costs, medical costs, loss of expected income, loss of companionship and love, loss of guidance, caring and nurturing and loss of consortium.
Given the emotional trauma experienced after a wrongful death, it is wise to seek the legal advice and expertise of a wrongful death lawyer.