What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Relatives usually bring a wrongful death lawsuit after the loss of a family member due to either negligence or intentional harm. It allows those closest to the victim (referred to as the “decedent”) to recover damages. State statutes determine who may file a wrongful death lawsuit and how long they have to do so.
If you have lost a loved one due to someone else’s actions or negligence, speak with an attorney to make sure you pursue the right legal options.
Wrongful death v. survivorship or criminal case
A wrongful death can lead to a civil lawsuit where family members bring a claim against the person or entity who caused it. Sometimes it can also lead to a criminal case. However, this carries a higher burden of proof, so a conviction can help prove your civil case.
A civil case may include the wrongful death claim, and, in some states, it may also include a “survivorship” claim. While the wrongful death claim represents the losses experienced by the heirs such as financial and emotional support, a survivorship claim is what the decedent would have been permitted to file if he or she had survived– in essence, the claim survives after the death. An example is conscious pain and suffering that they experienced before death.
Civil claims must be filed within the state’s statute of limitations, which is often between one and four years. It is also important to name the right plaintiffs; some states only allow a surviving spouse, child, or another specified person to sue while others permit certain beneficiaries to sue.
In addition, statutes of limitations are complex, and getting them wrong can lead to losing the right to sue. Speak with a personal injury lawyer to understand how the laws in your state affect your rights.
Types of wrongful death claim
In summary, there may be a valid wrongful death claim whenever a person’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence or actions that were intended to cause harm– and there are surviving family members who have suffered because of this. Some of the most common causes include:
• Auto accidents
• Workplace accidents
• Medical malpractice
• Defective products
• Hazardous property
The defendants can be just as varied, including other drivers on the road, employers or contractors, government entities, those who manufacture or distribute products, individuals, or companies that own or maintain the property, to name a few.
What you need to prove in a wrongful death case
Sometimes accidents happen, and no one is to blame. To succeed in a wrongful death claim, though, you need to be able to prove fault.
When the event was accidental, you usually need to be able to prove negligence, meaning that the defendant breached a duty owed to the decedent, and the breach was reasonably related to their death. For example, in the case of an auto accident, this can mean establishing that the other motorist did not drive safely, or in a medical malpractice case, it can require expert testimony to explain how the provider failed to meet the standard of care.
Damages for a wrongful death
If you have a valid wrongful death claim, you may be entitled to recover compensation for those things you lost because of their death. These can include funeral and burial costs, loss of the income the person would have contributed, the value of lost services, care, the guidance they would have provided, loss of companionship, and loss of consortium– if allowed under state law.
If you have experienced a tragic loss and wonder whether you should file a wrongful death claim, speak with a New York car accident lawyer at Douglas & London. Our team of professionals is here to help you understand your legal options. Consultations are free and confidential.