How Do You Know You Have A Wrongful Death Lawsuit To Pursue?
August 24th, 2017 by Attorney John Colvin
If you believe your deceased loved one was the victim of a murder, medical malpractice, auto accident fatality involving negligence or a similar wrongful death, you may be able to pursue damages against the responsible party. As I state on my website LipsigLawyers.com, being able to file a personal injury lawsuit based on negligence or wrongdoing is not nullified due to an individual’s death. So how do you know if you have a wrongful death lawsuit to pursue?
When Can You Sue For Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death claim exists when someone dies due to the actions of another person. Wrongful death lawsuits did not derive from English common law as much as other U.S. law did. Instead, this type of lawsuit has evolved in the past century as state and federal courts created the right to bring wrongful death actions. Now, every state has wrongful death laws.
Wrongful death actions include a variety of fatal accidents, such as car collisions, medical malpractice or product liability. The defendants can be people, large or small companies, and governmental agencies or employees. Typically, fault is brought for legal negligence when an intentional act leads to someone’s death.
Who Can Sue?
In most cases, a wrongful death claim is filed by a representative of the estate. If you file on behalf of a deceased family member, you are representing all survivors. The definition of “survivors” varies by state.
All states allow a spouse to file a wrongful death action. Parents of minors can sue if their child is killed, and minors can collect damages on behalf of their deceased parents. State law varies for adult children or adult parents filing a suit, as well as to whether grown siblings can sue for wrongful death. Basically, the more distant the relationship is, the harder it is to gain wrongful death damages. For example, some states allow the life partner of the deceased to file for damages if they can show financial reliance on their deceased partner.
Who Can Be Sued?
Wrongful death lawsuits are brought against people, large and small companies and government agencies or employees. For example, consider a car accident that takes place on a faulty roadway, where your relative is killed by a drunk driver. You could bring a wrongful death action against:
- the driver or employer of the vehicle that hit your relative
- the builder of the faulty roadway
- a government agency that didn’t provide adequate warnings of a road hazard responsible for the accident
- the manufacturer of a faulty part
- the company that gave alcohol to the drunk driver
- the owner of the establishment serving alcohol.
Wrongful Death Damages
The type of damages in a wrongful death claim include compensation for your relative’s pain and suffering, medical costs, and funeral and burial costs. If you were reliant on the deceased financially, you can ask for compensation of their expected income or inheritance due to the death.
Intangible damages that survivors can sue for include the loss of the deceased’s love and companionship or the loss of services they can no longer provide. You can even sue for loss of care, nurturing and guidance your relative can no longer give.
While state wrongful death statutes don’t have specific parameters, in most cases you will have to prove the value of the compensation you are asking for. For instance, you may have to show evidence of your deceased relative’s life expectancy and estimated earnings, and an expert witness could be required in order to be awarded a good judgment.
Tom Moverman established the Lipsig Lawyers Firm with Harry Lipsig and his partners in 1989. The firm focuses on products liability, personal injury, construction accidents, car accidents and medical malpractice.