If you’ve recently lost a loved one, taking legal action may not be the first thing on your mind right now. You’re likely worried about how to let other family members and friends know about the loss, concerned about funeral expenses, and wondering how life will change in the future. However, if the deceased died from the negligence or recklessness of another person or party, you should look into filing a wrongful death suit. A wrongful death suit may provide beneficiaries with financial support that may be necessary following the death of a loved one, as well as a sense that justice has been served to the negligent party. But as with most legal issues, wrongful death suits can be confusing and complex. Here is a breakdown of how to navigate a wrongful death suit.
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Finding a Lawyer
A wrongful death suit is an emotionally fraught time for all parties involved. You’re likely dealing with feelings of loss, anger, and confusion. You may be trying to get the deceased’s affairs in order or plan a funeral. You may have more people depending on your now that this loved one has passed. This is why it’s important to find a great lawyer quickly to handle a wrongful death suit.
Many lawyers specialize in wrongful death suits, like John T. Flood. Their expertise can be helpful in navigating the suit, which can be very complex. Wrongful death suits are civil, not criminal cases, which means that a lot of the action occurs in negotiations between lawyers rather than in investigations by the police. Wrongful death suits can require lots of back and forth between the parties and involve a lot of minute details and legal jargon, so it is important to hire a lawyer you trust to represent your best interests and relay all pertinent information back to you.
What is Wrongful Death?
All deaths are tragic, but what qualifies as wrongful death in the eyes of the law? The general rule of thumb in determining wrongful death is that the deceased would have had grounds to file a personal injury claim if they had survived. There are a few key instances where this usually happens.
If the deceased was killed intentionally, the killer can be brought to court for wrongful death. In this case, the wrongful death suit usually is accompanied by a criminal charge of murder. Another instance where a wrongful death suit may be suitable is medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional misdiagnosis a patient or is careless in their care of a patient leading to the patient’s death. In a medical malpractice case, it must be proven that the medical professional was reckless or negligent, as opposed to the death being a result of a worsening or untreatable condition. Fatal car accidents may also result in a wrongful death suit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
This depends on what state the wrongful death suit occurs in. In some states, they use the “Lord Campbell System”. Under this system, the suit can be filed by a designated beneficiary, which usually includes immediate family members, distant family members, domestic partners, and financial dependents. However, other states use the “Loss-to-Estate” system. Under this system, a personal representative of the deceased’s estate, usually appointed by the court, may file a wrongful death suit. This is a key example of something that your lawyer should be very knowledgeable in and help you navigate as you begin filing a wrongful death suit.
Wrongful Death Damages
When a wrongful death suit is finally settled, what happens next? If the case is successful, the party at fault will pay something called “damages”. Damages include any losses that the friends or family of the deceased have incurred as a result of the party at fault’s actions. These may be financial losses, like medical bills for the deceased, funeral expenses, loss of the deceased’s expected income, and loss of inheritance.
They may also be less tangible, quantifiable losses. Damages may also include the pain and suffering the deceased went through, loss of love and companionship, loss of guidance and guardianship, and emotional distress to the surviving family and friends of the deceased. It can be difficult to enumerate or quantify the amount of loss that the death of a loved one has caused their friends and family. This is another example of where a lawyer is especially helpful. Lawyers who specialize in wrongful death suits are well-versed in how to help the beneficiaries determine damages. A good lawyer will help this step seem as painless and easy as possible.
Wrongful Death Suits in the News
Wrongful death suits are much more common than you would expect, so if you are going through this as someone who has recently lost a loved one, you are not alone. In many cases, wrongful death suits may provide justice and closure when criminal charges fail. In 2013, a biker was struck and killed by a sheriff’s deputy’s car while riding in a bike lane. The deputy was not found to be criminally responsible for the death, but the following wrongful death suit was settled in the favor of the biker’s family.
One wrongful death suit can also prevent future wrongful deaths. In 2015, Uber was sued in a wrongful death suit after an Uber driver struck and killed a young girl while logged in to the Uber app. The case was settled in favor of the young girl’s family and led to a law that made companies like Uber and Lyft liable for their drivers’ behavior while logged in to the app.
A wrongful death suit doesn’t replace the deceased. The emotional distress caused by the sudden death of a loved one can’t really be calculated into monetary settlements. But a wrongful death suit can help bring some closure and a feeling of justice to the loved ones of the deceased. Additionally, the damages received from a wrongful death suit can help lift the financial burden and stress that the beneficiaries may be feeling, which may provide some relief.