What Іs a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
We cannot argue that we will all leave this world one day. That is an inevitable part of life. Indeed the more optimistic individuals have a unique way of looking at it. They live by the mantra, ‘life is never that serious because you will never make it out alive.’
But, sometimes, someone else may be the reason why there is a loss of life. It could be due to misconduct or negligence on their part.
Take the example of a group of friends enjoying the weekend. At some point, their level of intoxication is rather high. As a final stop, they stumble into the Minimum Staggering Distance (MSD) watering hole.
Despite seeing that the group is quite drunk, the bartender serves them more alcohol. One of them gets behind the wheel, and the night ends in a fatality. It is possible to come after the bar for a wrongful death claim. But, proving it may not be a simple task.
A casual internet search on wrongful deaths will show so much information. The figures ran into billions of dollars for various types of liabilities.
What Are Wrongful Death Claims?
To start off, let’s first answer the question: what is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim allows you to seek compensation in case of a third-party liability resulting in the death of a loved one. The claim covers emotional damages or financial loss resulting from the incident.
Let us make it clear from the beginning that wrongful death claims can be pretty complex. Let’s go back to the example of the bartender above. His lawyer could always argue that the drunk driver chose to get behind the wheel of the car.
The attorney could go on to argue that his client did not even know that they were driving in the first place. The plaintiff’s team of attorneys has to prove that the bartender was liable. That, indeed, that last round of drinks he served was a direct contributor to the fatality.
Please note that different states have their own interpretation of wrongful death claims. That is why it is of utmost importance that you choose the right attorneys. They must have expertise in that specific field and state in which they are filing the lawsuit.
So, if you’re filing wrongful death claims in Tampa, it’s better if you hire attorneys in that area or experts from the state of Florida.
Scope of Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The scope of wrongful death lawsuits is pretty broad. The most critical aspect is to prove that the defendant is liable for what happened. You can file a claim in the following scenarios:
- Intentional killing in the case of murder. The fact that the defendant stands a criminal trial does not prohibit the victim’s family from seeking a wrongful death claim. They will file it under the civil, not criminal court.
- Medical malpractice can be pretty wide. Misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose an illness resulting in death is one reason. There could be negligence on the part of the health care provider. Cases cover birth injuries, surgery errors, defective equipment, and wrong prescription or dosage.
- Car accidents arising from drunk driving or ignoring traffic laws. Others cover auto defects, and reckless driving.
- Truck accidents include driver negligence, reckless or aggressive driving, and mechanical repairs. Others are driving in adverse conditions or while intoxicated. The victim’s family can also sue the truck company for negligence and a host of other issues.
- Motorcycle accidents due to inattention or ignoring traffic rules.
- Defective products that allow you to go after manufacturers. If they do not ensure the safety of products, they can be liable for fatalities. The scope covers defective vehicles, Pharmaceuticals, child products, toys, and food.
- Workplace accidents due to the employer’s inability to provide a safe work environment. This should be per the occupational safety and health administration (OSHA) guidelines. Wrongful death lawsuits cover asbestos and mesothelioma, manufacturing accidents, and railroad worker injuries. Others are transport accidents, strain injuries, and repetitive motion.
Proving Wrongful Death
As we stated, the onus is on the plaintiff’s team to prove wrongful death. You must show:
- Negligence on the part of the plaintiff due to recklessness or carelessness.
- Breach of duty shows the defendant owed the victim the right to safety. As a driver, for example, you have the duty to follow set traffic rules to ensure safety. If a fatality occurs because of an accident or negligence on your part, the victim’s family can sue you.
The same applies to medical providers who take the oath to maintain people’s health. In that case, the plaintiff’s team must show that the defendant was in breach of duty due to negligence.
- Causation aims to show how negligence resulted in the death of that victim. Did the bartender, for example, act in a negligent manner in serving more drinks? Was there a duty to refuse to serve the group of revelers?
- Damages that should be quantifiable. This covers medical expenses, hospitalization, or loss of income. They could also show the pain and suffering the victim had to endure before then.
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Parties in a Wrongful Death Claim
The surviving spouse and parents of minors can file a wrongful death claim. The same applies to the children and immediate family members. Also, note that a representative can file the suit on behalf of the victim’s family.
Remember, each state has its interpretation of the death statute. It helps to know which parties are heirs under intestate inheritance laws. Some states will not allow a parent to sue for the death of an adult child and vice versa. Some states allow extended family members like uncles, grandparents, and aunts to sue.
The scenario becomes even more complex if dealing with their romantic partner. The state may say that marriage should be a key factor when determining who can file a wrongful death claim. They may, for example, need proof that the partner depended on the deceased for finances.
Calculating Compensation for Wrongful Death
The damages arising from a wrongful death are many. A family could lose its source of support if the victim was the main breadwinner. Expenses may pile up, including hospital bills and funeral expenses. There is also the emotional aspect that comes with losing a loved one.
So, how much money can you recover from a wrongful death claim?
The court takes into consideration many factors when calculating compensation for wrongful death. There is no specific amount that the system has set aside for such cases. Different factors will come into play, including:
- The length of the suffering the victim had to endure after the accident. If, for example, he had to stay in hospital for a very long time before passing away. That could increase the amount of compensation.
- The cost of caring for and sending off the victim after his death. Most courts will award, at the very least, a bare amount to cover such expenses.
- Direct financial losses that the family has to endure after the death of the victim. The spouse, for example, may have had to take time off work to care for the victim. That would result in the loss of income during that period. That affected the carer’s ability to contribute to the running of the household.
- Emotional loss compensation to cover grief, suffering, or pain.
- The defendant’s level of negligence can increase compensation.
Your lawyers will walk you through all the aspects of determining restitution. Get ready to provide plenty of documentation to support your claims. It would help your case, for example, to show that you had to seek counseling or therapy to help cope with the loss.
Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney
By now, you know that it is important to hire the right wrongful death attorney. The lawyer should have a good grasp of all the nuances of the state laws. It can save you time, money, heartache, and headache when going into the process.
The lawyer you hire must also have expertise in litigation. You don’t want to be in front of a judge with an incompetent lawyer.
A good lawyer also understands that litigation for wrongful death is very tough. As the plaintiff, you have to invest time and resources. That is why most reputable attorneys would rather avoid court cases altogether. They will often opt for an out-of-court settlement as the first option.
Be wary of any lawyer who seems to be pushing for a court case. It could drag on for years and cost you a lot of money.
Take the time to shop around and do proper due diligence on the attorneys you want to work with. Check the experience and industry reputation. Also, see what other clients have to say about them. The online space makes it easy to get such information. A simple look at client reviews will give you a lot of insights.
Dealing with any death is heartbreaking. Add on to the fact that negligence on another person’s part contributed to the death can make it harder. Filing a wrongful death lawsuit gives you the chance to hold the other party responsible.
True, it will not bring back the person you lost. But, it can bring some emotional and financial comfort. Hire the right wrongful death attorney to ensure success in your court case. You want a fighting chance when you stand before the judge and jury.