What is a wrongful death lawsuit?

A wrongful death lawsuit is when a party files a claim for recovery damages against someone whose’s negligence is responsible for another person’s death. These claims could be for intentional or accidental homicide and could be the result of medical malpractice, negligent driving, or premeditated murder. The party of a wrongful death settlement involving the death of a loved one often includes a widowed spouse, children, or close family members, so these cases are often quite emotional.

Each case is different, and so are the compensatory claims. Likewise, attorneys can settle these cases out of court, or it could go to trial. In this article, we discuss a wrongful death lawsuit, different scenarios that could result in a claim, how courts determine, money claims, and what you can do to help your settlement if you lost a loved one.

Different Scenarios For A Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death lawsuits arise when there is sufficient evidence to show that a victim’s death resulted from the misconduct of another person. If proven negligent, the victim’s party will win the case. However, in some scenarios, like medical or pharmaceutical malpractice, it can be difficult to prove negligence. Jurors often side with a doctor’s actions. And in pharmaceutical cases, most physicians explain the risks associated with different medications. However, if you firmly believe a loved one suffered from pharmaceutical or medical malpractice, you have the right to make that claim.

Another common scenario is when a victim dies in a car accident. These claims are often easier to prove, especially with instances where the negligent driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Likewise, car accidents generally have witnesses, and traffic cameras or local security cameras can catch the scene of the incident. If a toxicology report shows the party in question was intoxicated at the time of the incident, jurors generally dismiss their reckless behavior and side with the victim’s party. Likewise, if there is sufficient witness testimony or clear footage of the negligent party’s wrongdoing, the case is strong for the victim’s party.

Now, if a victim dies from an accident at work, the family may only be entitled to worker’s compensation. Each on-the-job case is different, and attorneys have to look at the cause of death, the employer’s actions leading up to the death, and whether an employee was responsible for the incident. If they prove that the employer or an employee was responsible for the accident, then the victim’s family will receive much more fair and adequate compensation for the accident.

And lastly, and the most difficult for a family to endure, is the murder of a family member. If a conviction leads to a murder, then families can file an additional wrongful death lawsuit to receive just compensation. In this scenario, the burden of proof is strong for the victim’s family. There is a strong chance that a wrongful death claim in this scenario would be settled out of court. But if it happened to reach a trial, jurors typically sympathize with a victim’s family and will allow just compensation.

How Much Does A Wrongful Death Lawsuit Pay?
Surviving family members are entitled to compensation for both “economic” and “non-economic” damages. Economic damages could include projected lost income from the accident, funeral and burial expenses, or medical expenses endured to try the save the victim’s life. Non-economic damages could include loss of companionship, loss of moral support, or any pain a victim’s spouse or family members endure because of the death.

Now, placing a monetary value on human life is quite difficult. For many family members who lost a loved one, they will tell you that their life was priceless. Nevertheless, a victim’s family is entitled to compensation for wrongful death, and it is an attorney’s job to ensure they receive just compensation. There are several factors considered when deciding compensation, which includes:

  • The deceased’s age
  • The deceased’s current wage and future earning capacity
  • The state of health before death
  • The deceased’s education and training
  • The age of the deceased’s dependents
  • Lost benefits, including healthcare, pension, social security, etc.
  • Medical bill from the accident
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Wrongful death compensation cannot be merely an estimate. It must be supported by objective evidence, such as wages, savings, earning potential, etc. A family of a young person who died as a result of another’s negligence is more likely to receive higher compensation due to the victim’s earning potential over their lifetime if the accident never occurred. Economist and other financial experts must examine the deceased person and their unique circumstances at the time of death to determine the proper amount of compensation a family should receive.

Factors That Could Reduce Wrongful Death Compensation
Not every wrongful death case is clear cut, and courts may find the victim to be somewhat responsible for the accident. For instance, a victim who died from a workplace fall could have resulted from them not securing their harness correctly. In this case, families could receive less compensation than they initially thought they would get.

Likewise, the statute of limitations for individuals who can file a wrongful death lawsuit is two years in Virginia and three years in South Carolina. If you miss the two-year deadline, you cannot receive any compensation for the accident. Not to mention, wrongful death cases provide unique