Wrongful Death Cases -
Personal Injuries that Result in Death
The definition of wrongful death case is a claim in which one is alleging that a person died as a result of another's negligence. In this circumstance, the deceased person’s surviving relatives, dependents, or estate may file a lawsuit against the responsible party, pursuing monetary damages for their losses. Wrongful death laws vary from state to state with each state having its own guidelines, principles, or rules regarding these specific personal injury claims. An experienced wrongful death attorney at our firm can assess your wrongful death claim and can guide you through the claim process against the responsible party or parties.
Wrongful Death Laws – State Specific
In certain states there are “true” wrongful death acts whereby the survivors of the deceased person or next of kin are eligible to file a suit for their damages resulting from their family member's death. “Survival actions” are acts that are more commonly referred to in other states. Typically, an individual or family will seek damages on behalf of the deceased person for the deceased person's pain, suffering, and other damages that resulted in the injuries that caused the wrongful death. Each jurisdiction dictates which individuals are eligible to bring a wrongful death claim. Most often the spouse and children are the primary beneficiaries of the person who has died are eligible to file a claim. Certain states allow the parents of the deceased person to be designated as beneficiaries. In those situations where the deceased person did not have a husband or wife, children, or parents, there may be no one eligible to bring a wrongful death action. The deceased’s “heirs at law” can also qualify for a recovery if available. The defendant’s conduct is not needed to be the sole cause of death. When it has been found that defendant’s negligence contributed in part or in connection with other circumstances to a person's death, liability may still be present.
Wrongful Death Damages
Forms of Damages.
The forms of damages that may be recovered can vary significantly when it is found that the defendant legally liable for the death of another. For instance, medical expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost earnings, and lost benefits (such as pension benefits or medical and health insurance coverage) can all be recovered in the event that the defendant is shown to be liable in a wrongful death case. In certain states, punitive damages as well as damages for pain and suffering or mental anguish that they experienced as a result of the death can be recovered by the plaintiff.
How to calculate damages.
There are complexities involved in the calculation of damages for wrongful death actions, especially when determining a monetary loss. Also known as a pecuniary loss, calculating a monetary loss can include the survivor’s lost support, contributions, and services of the deceased person. To determine damages an amount must be calculated based on the deceased person's life expectancy and work life expectancy in addition as the life expectancies of the beneficiaries. Many times the remaining period of minority of any beneficiaries will be taken into consideration.
When there are several beneficiaries, the damages will be distributed accordingly. Allocation is made in accordance with their losses. There are instances when recovery is divided as dictated in each state’s wrongful death or intestacy laws.
Wrongful Death Cases - Defenses to Liability
A defendant can raise any defense in a wrongful death action had the decedent died or not. For example, if the decedent contributed to the cause of death by his or her own negligence then the defendant may utilize that defense in a wrongful death case. When a decedent has already recovered damages, for example an individual was successful in personal injury claim when death was not immediate, the survivors may not then bring a wrongful death action and recover for the same injury after the fact. Of course there are certain limitations to this scenario, and in some situations the survivors may still be eligible to file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the decedent.
The complexities of wrongful death claims can be overwhelming when a loved one dies. During this trying time, the guidance of a skilled wrongful death attorney at The Gallegos Law Firm can help provide assistance to the surviving family members with sound legal counsel as well as work diligently to help secure compensation for their devastating loss.