When a person unlawfully kills another person, then certain individuals close to the victim may be entitled to sue for wrongful death. Wrongful death is a civil suit that demands compensation from the person whose actions caused the death. Each state has a statute that controls how these cases are to proceed and outlines precisely who may file and benefit from wrongful death lawsuits or claims.
What Is Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death happens when a person dies due to the unlawful or negligent actions of another person or entity. The circumstances may or may not be criminal, and the existence of a wrongful death suit is entirely independent of any actions the state may take regarding the death.
Consider an example where the state refuses to prosecute a person for killing someone else. Despite this refusal to bring criminal charges, a wrongful death civil suit may still proceed. Additionally, if the state does decide to prosecute but the defendant is acquitted at trial, a wrongful death lawsuit may still proceed.
Types of Wrongful Death
Sadly, various situations can typically give rise to wrongful deaths. Each can be characterized by a failing of some sort toward the safety and well-being of the victim.
Intentional deaths are those where the killer intended to cause the death of another or at least knew with certainty that their actions would result in the victim’s death. Most forms of murder are intentional deaths.
Medical Malpractice That Leads to Wrongful Death
Medical professionals must fulfill high standards of care when treating patients. However, some fall below these standards and end up causing fatalities. Failure to diagnose and misdiagnosis are two common forms of medical malpractice that result in patients’ deaths.
Traffic accidents create extreme amounts of force that often cause fatalities. Negligent, reckless drivers whose actions kill others can face liability for wrongful death lawsuits, even if the state refuses to bring criminal charges. Sadly, many of the wrongful deaths in traffic situations are preventable, especially those that involve drinking and driving.
Defective products present serious dangers to consumers. When a defect results in death, the family members of the victim may have the right to seek damages based on wrongful death.
Some common examples of dangerous defective products that can kill include:
- Defective car parts, such as tires
- Defective tools and equipment
- Defective medical devices and equipment
- Defective children’s products
Depending on the situation, the product’s designer, manufacturer, distributor, wholesaler, or retailer may each be made to face liability for wrongful death.
Over 5,000 workers die on the job each year in the United States. And although workers’ compensation handles many of the claims arising out of these deaths, some of them are settled through wrongful death lawsuits. Those death cases typically involve a third party whose negligence, recklessness, or intentional act caused the fatality.
Compensation for Wrongful Death Cases
Compensation in wrongful death cases is for the purpose of compensating the surviving loved ones. Each state determines precisely what types of compensation are available for wrongful death and typically classifies them as either economic or non-economic in nature.
Economic damages refer to damages of a financial nature, such as:
- Medical treatment
- The direct financial support the deceased would have provided if alive
- The loss of benefits and gifts
- Funeral and burial costs
- The value of the deceased’s contribution to household services
Attorneys and the court use many factors to determine just how much these damages should be, including the existence and age of children, the age of the decedent, the prior earning capacity of the decedent, and their health before the death occurred. File wrongful death lawsuits to get its benefits.
Non-economic damages encompass those losses that are intangible yet highly impactful on the lives of a victim’s loved ones. Depending on the state, non-economic damages available to a decedent’s loved ones might include:
- Anguish or pain and suffering of the deceased
- Loss of consortium or loss of companionship and emotional support
- Loss of guidance and instruction
- Pain and suffering of the loved ones (only in some states)
Calculating non-economic damages is often contentious and challenging. It is common for defendants and their insurance companies to put up a fight during this stage of the proceedings.
For this reason, it is essential to have an experienced wrongful death lawyer who understands the true value of compensable losses and who knows how to fight to get their clients the compensation they deserve.
In many states, deceased victims’ loved ones can seek punitive damages on top of economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are solely for the purpose of punishing especially bad behavior that is grossly negligent, extremely reckless, or intentionally malicious. Hence, they are not available in cases of simple negligence.
Filing a Wrongful Death Case
The procedure for filing a wrongful death case can vary from state to state. Some jurisdictions require a personal representative of the deceased to file the lawsuit on behalf of the victim’s loved ones. Others, however, allow certain family members to file wrongful death lawsuits directly.
Regardless of the jurisdiction, survivors of victims of wrongful death need the services of an experienced wrongful death attorney if they truly want to get justice for their loss. The process is too complex and stressful for survivors to go through it alone and receive a worthy compensation payout.
If you have lost a loved one due to the unlawful actions of someone else, The Joel Bieber Firm can potentially help you get justice through compensation for your losses. Call today for a free case review and learn how we can help you honor the memory of your loved one.