Losing a loved one is a traumatic experience that is accompanied with deep emotional pain. That loss can be even harder to deal with if their death occurred due to the actions of another. However, it is possible to recover for the death of a loved one when their death was caused by the fault of another person or entity. This can be done by filing a wrongful death suit.
A wrongful death suit is a type of personal injury claim. It is similar because had the person lived, they would have had the grounds to make a personal injury claim against the person or entity that caused them harm. Instead, their family makes the claim in their place. This type of claim exists when someone dies as a result of the actions or inactions of another. Types of events that can lead to a wrongful death claim include: car accidents, medical malpractice, and product liability claims.
Under the common law, there was no way of filing a wrongful death claim. A suit of that nature did not exist at the time. However today, each state has some form of a wrongful death law that will allow loved ones the opportunity to assert this claim. While there is a wrongful death law in every state, they tend to vary from state to state. Be sure to speak with a personal injury attorney to understand the nuances of the particular wrongful death law of your state.
Each state differs on which loved ones are eligible to assert a wrongful death claim on behalf of the deceased. However most commonly, the deceased’s immediate family meaning surviving spouse, children and parents are eligible to make this claim. In some states more distant family members are able to make a wrongful death claim. However regardless of who can assert a wrongful death claim, there is a time limitation of when the claim can be filed. A personal injury attorney can likely help you understand your state’s statute of limitations.
A wrongful death suit seeks economic damages as the form of recovery. Money can in no way replace your loved one, but it can help compensate for such a loss. A loved one asserting a successful wrongful death claim may recover damages such as lost wages from the deceased, loss of companionship, mental pain and anguish experienced by the surviving family, and even funeral expenses.
A wrongful death suit differs from that of a criminal case because a wrongful death suit only seeks financial compensation. A criminal suit on the other hand can lead to jail/prison time, probation, or fines paid to the state. Additionally, just because a person was found to be responsible for the death of another in a wrongful death suit, does not mean that the person was necessarily criminally responsible. This is because the suits have different burdens of proof that they must meet. For a civil wrongful death claim, the asserting party must prove their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” meaning more likely than not. However, the burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt”. While the two suits have different burdens of proof, it is possible to be found liable for both a wrongful death claim and a criminal homicide charge.
Recovering on a wrongful death claim will not, unfortunately, bring your loved one back. However, it can provide assistance against economic burdens that may have arisen after your loved one’s passing. Additionally, a wrongful death suit can serve as a punishment for the wrongdoer and as a deterrent to others to avoid that action in the future. Be sure to consult a personal injury attorney to discuss the possibility of asserting a wrongful death claim.