If you’ve lost a loved one in a tragic accident, you are now left to mourn and try to pick up the pieces of your life. And while you’re grieving your loss, there is probably a worry in the back of your mind about how you will provide for your children or family. You may also have a desire to hold the party who caused the accident responsible. Learn more about how the wrongful death lawyer at The Joel Bieber Firm can help you and your family.
Perhaps your loved one succumbed to their injuries after you had already contacted a personal injury attorney to recoup the costs you paid for medical bills or the time your loved one missed from work. Or maybe your loved one died at the scene of a car collision or a workplace accident.
Whether they passed immediately after the accident or later on as a result of injuries sustained from the event, your family member suffered an untimely, wrongful death.
If you lost a loved one in an accident caused by another party, then a wrongful death lawyer can help you get the financial justice you deserve.
Wrongful Death Lawyers Establish Responsibility in Tragic Accidents
Many wrongful death cases start with someone being hurt in an avoidable accident. These accidents are usually caused by recklessness, negligence, or oversight on the part of an individual or entity that had a duty of care and breached it.
The negligent party, referred to as the at-fault party or the defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit, is the one responsible for the harm caused to your loved one.
Lawyers establish responsibility in wrongful death cases by determining what caused the accident and how the at-fault party’s actions (or inaction) led to the harm and consequent death of your family member.
Responsibility for a deadly accident differs by circumstance. There are several common incidents that can lead to a wrongful death, such as:
- A car collision where one party drives irresponsibly and collides with another driver
- Medical malpractice — when a mistake made by a doctor costs someone their life
- A fatal workplace accident, common in the construction and oil and gas industries
- Exposure to a harmful consumer product like contaminated talcum powder or lead paint
- Murder or manslaughter
These aren’t the only types of wrongful deaths, but they are some of the more common ones that The Joel Bieber Firm has handled. Even something like a bad bite from the neighbor’s dog can be fatal.
The Differences Between Wrongful Death Cases and Personal Injury Cases
Wrongful death and personal injury cases share a lot of similarities and are often pursued in the same manner. In fact, one element of determining if you have a wrongful death case is whether the plaintiff (the deceased) would have been able to bring a personal injury claim against the defendant.
Anyone who has lost a parent, child, or spouse through a preventable accident should speak with a personal injury lawyer who handles wrongful death cases.
The lawyer can evaluate the circumstances of the incident and determine whether the accident was caused by negligence, whether it was preventable, and whether it directly caused the death of your loved one. They will help you explore your legal options in civil court.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
In almost all states, only the representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, the estate representative (typically the executor of the will or a representative appointed by the court if the person died without a will) represents the interests of the surviving family.
The representative can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of all eligible family members. This is typically limited to:
- Spouse or legal domestic partner
- Children, both adopted and biological
- Parents, biological and adoptive
Once the personal representative of the state is made aware of the circumstances surrounding the person’s death, they can retain the services of a wrongful death attorney and pursue a case against the at-fault party on behalf of the eligible family members.
Damages from Wrongful Death Lawsuits
The basis for a personal injury or wrongful death case is to make whole a person who was injured or suffered damages — including death — due to the negligence of another party.
Wrongful death cases, like personal injury cases, are handled in civil court, not criminal. While the defendant may face criminal charges, it won’t be in a civil court. Instead, wrongful death civil suits are intended to compensate families for their pain and suffering due to the loss of their loved one and for their financial losses, both real and potential.
Families may collect both economic and non-economic damages. Common damages collected in wrongful death cases include:
- Medical bills, if the individual was treated after the accident
- Lost time from work after the accident
- Funeral and burial costs
- Damaged personal property, such as a totaled vehicle
- Pain and suffering, or emotional trauma and distress
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Loss of guidance (for a child losing a parent)
- Los of earning potential, including wages, pensions, and retirement investments
Suppose the defendant was found by the court to have acted especially egregiously, such as in a case of a defective consumer product, medical malpractice, or murder. In that case, punitive damages, which are a financial punishment, are also assessed.
Punitive damages are both a punishment for the wrongdoer and a deterrent to other similar companies or entities to not engage in risky, harmful practices.
Proving Guilt in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Establishing guilt in a wrongful death suit is similar to the method used in personal injury cases. Responsibility and fault hinge on establishing negligence on the part of the defendant, a four-prong approach. Your wrongful death lawyer will argue that:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care
- They engaged in negligent actions that harmed your loved one or failed to exercise reasonable care
- Their actions harmed your loved one
- You suffered losses due to their negligence
Reasonable care is defined as what a reasonable person would do in similar circumstances. For example, in the case of a car collision, was the defendant using reasonable care when driving, or were they texting and driving or driving under the influence?
In medical malpractice cases, your wrongful death attorney may call other physicians to testify about what kind of medical care they would have given your loved one in similar circumstances. If the medical care provider didn’t exercise a reasonable duty of care, then their actions or failure to diagnose would be considered medical malpractice.
Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?
If you believe that your loved one died because another party abdicated their duty of care, then a wrongful death lawyer can help you win the settlement you deserve. However, it’s important to talk to a lawyer as soon as you can rather than waiting.
After losing a loved one, hiring a lawyer may be the last thing on your mind. But if you want the estate representative to file a suit on your behalf, you need to act fast.
There is a short window of time, called the statute of limitations, that you legally have to file a claim in court, and it can be as little as one year from the date of your loved one’s death or as many as six years.
Beyond the statute of limitations, the sooner you hire a lawyer, the more time they have to prepare your case before filing. Moving quickly will also ensure that any evidence, including eyewitness accounts or video footage, is fresh.
Oftentimes, personal injury lawyers also pursue wrongful death cases. The burden of proof is the same, and a case for breach of duty of care and negligence is the same for a personal injury claim and a wrongful death suit.
Your case may not go in front of a judge; instead, it could be mediated between your lawyer and the lawyers representing the defendant and their insurance company. Often, insurance companies are the ones paying the claim, and they will be involved in negotiations for a settlement.
Contact The Joel Bieber Firm for Your Wrongful Death Claim
If you’ve lost a loved one through medical malpractice or misdiagnosis, from exposure to a toxic consumer product, or because of an accident caused by someone else, we can help. The Joel Bieber firm is a legal team of experienced wrongful death and personal injury attorneys who can help pursue a claim on your behalf.
We can handle any type of wrongful death case, from a car collision to a workplace accident and medical malpractice. Your wrongful death lawyer walks beside you every step of the way, providing support during this painful time and advocating for you in a court of law. Contact The Joel Bieber Firm for a complimentary consultation.