A wrongful death occurs when someone dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of someone else. When this happens, the surviving members of the victim’s family may file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for their losses. After a wrongful death, family members may suffer from a loss of companionship, lost wages, medical expenses prior to death, funeral costs and more.
At MedMalFirm.com, we help clients with wrongful death cases resulting from medical malpractice. When a healthcare provider fails to meet the standards of care or is negligent in their work with patients, they can be held liable if a patient dies as a result. For families, it is important to understand your legal rights and the options you may have to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit – also called a wrongful death claim – is a lawsuit that surviving family members can file against someone who negligently caused the death of their loved one. Every state has a wrongful death statute or statutes, which lay out the procedures for filing a lawsuit.
Generally, a wrongful death claim must include the following elements:
- The deceased person is a human being
- Death was caused by negligence or intent to harm
- The surviving family is suffering financially due to the death
A wrongful death attorney can assist you in establishing these elements and ensuring that your lawsuit is filed correctly. You should know that every state has a deadline – called the statute of limitations – for filing wrongful death lawsuits. This is generally two years from the date of the death, but may be longer if the cause of death was not immediately apparent. Your attorney will help ensure that your lawsuit is filed within any applicable deadlines.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
When someone dies due to the actions or negligence of someone else, surviving loved ones reasonably want justice and want to hold the responsible party accountable. But that doesn’t mean that every affected loved one has the right to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has individual laws regarding who can file a wrongful death claim. Generally, however, the following individuals are allowed to file a claim:
A personal representative may be established before the person’s death, or after. This is the person who is responsible for executing the estate, and/or last wishes of the deceased. In some states, a personal representative is the only person who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, though the benefits may extend to the surviving family as well as the estate.
Spouse and Immediate Family
Often, it is the spouse or children who initiate a wrongful death claim. Most states allow the spouse and certain immediate family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Immediate family members may include children, parents or siblings.
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims Related to Medical Malpractice
When a family suffers financially due to the death of a loved one, they may be able to pursue damages for their losses. In wrongful death claims, damages are called “pecuniary losses”. That includes financial losses or hardship related to loss of support, medical or funeral expenses, loss of benefits or inheritance or loss of services. The amount of damages that you may qualify for will depend on the facts of your case. Wrongful death laws are designed to keep compensation fair and just.
There are various factors that may contribute to how much you can pursue in damages. The court will consider factors like the age, physical condition, income, life expectancy, and intelligence of the person who died. The court will also consider factors related to the surviving family members and their overall financial needs. If the person who died was the primary source of income for the family, then that will be factored into the damages. Also, if the person who died has a special needs child that has regular medical expenses, then those factors may also be considered.
What Are Some Types of Wrongful Death Cases?
Some of the situations that often lead to families filing wrongful death claims include:
There are certainly more possible scenarios that can lead to wrongful death claims. Some cases are due to negligence, while others involve intent to do harm to another person. In either case, families deserve the opportunity to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions or inaction.
Learn More about Wrongful Death and Your Rights
Learn more about wrongful death and your legal rights by contacting MedMalFirm.com. Let our team provide you with the compassion and support you need while helping you understand your legal rights. If your situation qualifies for a wrongful death claim, we will help you build your case and make sure that it meets state law and procedures. No matter what, we are here to help you protect your rights and get the justice that you deserve.
No family deserves the heartache that a wrongful death brings. Let us help. To get started with a free consultation with a wrongful death lawyer, call us at 877-887-4850.