Death is a tragedy in our lives. Whether you’re mourning the young or old, not enough words can describe the state of losing a loved one. And when someone else’s negligence causes the death of a loved one, you have the right to file a lawsuit. It allows those close to a deceased person to file a wrongful death claim against the defendant responsible for the death. Even though each state’s wrongful death laws vary, you can file these claims as a representative of the deceased person’s estate. Today, a wrongful death claim is still relatively new to many people as multiple parties and sides are involved. This is a complete guide to help you understand wrongful death claims.
1. Have the Right Lawyer
When you have the right lawyer for a wrongful death lawsuit, it increases the stakes of a successful case. “A lawyer comes in handy during such claims. They tell you how to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit and what to expect,” explains David Christensen Law. You may need to contact your state’s bar association to get a competent lawyer who handles wrongful death lawsuits. You also want to choose a lawyer who understands personal injury cases. Additionally, you can search for lawyers online. Please pay close attention to the reviews as they will help make a well-informed decision.
2. Not Everyone Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Only specific people can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased person. In most cases, wrongful death damages can only be awarded to the surviving spouse and parents, children of the deceased (non-adult), and representatives of the deceased person’s estate. Alternatively, the surviving spouse can also file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the minor children. Also, a surviving parent can file a claim if the surviving spouse and children are not present. Besides the above parties, the other non-family member who can file a wrongful death claim is the deceased’s representative.
3. Intentional vs. Unintentional Wrongful Deaths
Altogether, these actions can result in death. For instance, if you hit someone severely and the injuries result in death, this type of injury is intentionally caused. Another example is when a person dies in a car accident where a driver unintentionally caused it. All these cases can be sued for negligence. Because of this complexity, consider hiring a lawyer who can lay grounds for intentional or unintentional deaths. However, wrongful death laws do not apply to an unborn fetus – the person has no legal status until he or she is born alive. On the other hand, if an infant is born alive and later dies because of injuries caused before his/her birth, this classifies as wrongful death.
4. What Do You Need to Prove?
To hold the defendant responsible in a wrongful death lawsuit, you need to meet the burden of proof. It should hold the same grounds that the victim would have had to meet if they had lived. Now, this is where it gets tricky so pay attention. Using negligence as an example, the plaintiff needs to show that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. In short, this means the breach of duty was a direct cause of the death, and the death caused the damages you (as the plaintiff) are trying to recover.
5. The Deceased’s Estate
Because the victim of a wrongful death claim cannot file a claim, this is where a representative of the deceased person steps in and files a claim. In most cases, the relationship between the victim and the survivors allowed to file the claim is not standard: it varies depending on the region and location of the accident. Some states allow marriage as the only relationship that can file a wrongful death claim. Other states are open to this and will permit a romantic partner to file a lawsuit.
6. Immunity from a Lawsuit
A few exceptions exist regarding the rule of wrongful death claims. First, the traditional exception is applied to the family members – also known as “family immunity.” In short, it means the person is safe from a claim which any member can take. This helps to avert any fraudulent activity amongst a family and promotes unity. However, this rule has its drawbacks, and many states have dropped it.
Losing your loved one to someone else’s negligence is a painful experience. But no one anticipates an accident happening. That said, it’s essential to know your rights and what benefits you are entitled to. Hopefully, this information makes it easy to understand the critical details in a wrongful death claim. Be educated and let this guide assist you along the way.