Did someone you love suffer a death at the hands of a botched medical procedure?
Did your loved one suffer a death as a result of gross negligence, either from a company or an individual?
Really no matter how your loved one died, if someone was negligent, there’s a good chance it will fall under the legal claim of wrongful death.
But how much can you sue for wrongful death? Moreover, what are the average settlements for wrongful death suits?
Wrongful death is one of the more serious legal injury claims out there because, as the name suggests, whatever happened resulted in the death of an individual.
You’ll find the answer to these questions and many more throughout this article
How Much Can You Sue For Wrongful Death? A Look at the Facts
In a time immediately following the death of your loved one, you likely have very little wherewithal to deal with the various legal hurdles you’ll need to go through to initiate a claim.
In order to seek compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death, you should seek the assistance of a competent, seasoned wrongful death attorney such as the Custy Law Firm, LLC.
Having a quality trial attorney at your side during both negotiations and litigation will result in far better results for you. It can truly be the difference between a substantial settlement and getting nothing at all.
So, assuming you intend to get yourself a good lawyer to represent you and your loved one’s interests, we run back to the initial question — how much can you sue for wrongful death?
The answer is more complex than you would think.
You Could Sue For Whatever You Please
This is where that question becomes a little nonsensical. In the American legal system, you are free and apt to sue for whatever amount you want, and whatever relief you want.
This means that if you trip and fall because of a blade of grass on a private property, you can sue the owner of that property for a million dollars if you want to. You could even ask that you be given ten trampolines or fifty goats as compensation. Nothing prevents you from filing such claims and making such demands.
The question then becomes whether or not your claim is reasonable.
Your claim for wrongful death will be dependent on the exact nature of the decedent’s circumstances. For example, was their death caused by any kind of negligence of their own? Were they going through a high-risk surgery in the first place?
There are an endless number of factors that go into what your claim amount will be.
So, in the end, the truth of the matter is that you can claim as much in damages as you please. However, that means very little in terms of what you’ll actually get in the end.
Ultimately, hiring an experienced attorney to represent you will make all the difference. They will know which specific facts about your case matter and which ones don’t. More to the point, a good lawyer will have the tools and experience to know how much to sue for.
What Is A Life Worth?
This exact question is what a jury will have to grapple with, in the event your case even goes to trial, which isn’t likely. The truth is, most civil cases are settled before trial.
This is why it is all the more important to get a quality attorney right away. Most negotiations and posturing occurs well before any case gets underway. In many instances, a settlement agreement can be reached without even having to file with the court.
This saves on court costs for both sides, attorneys fees for both sides, and, most importantly, precious time. Sometimes litigating a case to the end can take many years, especially if the amount of damages claimed are high.
Going up against large corporations can often result in protracted litigation because they have well-staffed and funded legal departments.
On the other hand, those same large corporations with massive legal departments also have massive PR departments, and the interests can compete at times. The negative PR garnered from dragging out a case that makes the company look bad could cost them far more than any settlement amount you could ever get.
What Is The Average Wrongful Death Settlement Then?
With the question of how much you can sue for wrongful death out of the way, we then get into the question of what you may actually walk away with. This is what is known as your settlement amount if you settle before trial.
It’s called your award, or damages, when the amount is decided by a jury. Either way, it is the money that you get in the end as a result of the wrongful death.
So, how much will you typically get?
It may not surprise you to hear this, but this is directly related to the amount you sue for.
Most claim amounts are not the amount you will end up with in the end, so it stands to reason that whatever your minimum is that you’re willing to walk away with, you should claim for more than that.
But, what exactly will your average settlement be?
The reason you may find yourself lacking an answer is because there is no concrete answer. Your eventual settlement is going to be unique. Sure, there are estimates and ranges, but, at the end of the day, one wrongful death suit might be worth far more than others, and vice versa.
Each case is like a snowflake. Even though the same basic elements apply to each case, they’re all different. This is all the more reason why getting quality counsel to represent you is of paramount importance.
Legal News You Can Use
The answer to the question: “How much can you sue for wrongful death?” largely hinges on the exact facts of your case.
If you have questions about other injuries and legal matters, feel free to browse the rest of our site for more legal articles.
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed after a loved one passes away, where their death was avoidable. The lawsuit is taken against a person or company where they have been found to either be negligent or have intent. The person filing for the lawsuit must also be suffering financially as a result of their death. You can find out more about filing for a wrongful death lawsuit here.
Wrongful death lawsuits are common and occur for several reasons. Primarily medical malpractice, road traffic accidents, work accidents or exposure to dangerous chemicals. There have also been several famous cases of wrongful death lawsuits, here are just five of them.
Phil and Brynn Hartman
Brynn shot her husband in 1998 and then killed herself. She had been taking Zoloft, an anti-depressant medication. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pfizer Pharmaceuticals who manufactured Zoloft.
Wrongful death claims against pharmaceutical companies are common and in the US right now several are being taken out against opioid manufacturers such as Purdue Pharma.
Aaliyah was an R&B singer and actress who died at just 22 years old in a plane crash along with eight others. Her parents filed wrongful death lawsuits against the airway company and virgin records. The pilot was found to be unqualified and the plane was overloaded.
In 2006 a child went missing. The mother was interviewed by Nancy Grace who worked for CNN. The mother was not a suspect in the disappearance of the child. Despite this, Nancy questioned the mother about where her son was, even suggesting that she may have killed him.
The 21-year-old mother went on to commit suicide not long after the interview. The family suicide Nancy Grace for $200,000.
O J Simpson
Between 1994-1995 the double murder trial against O J Simpson was televised for the world to see. Simpson was a famous footballer and the trial made headlines across the world. His ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death. Simpson was acquitted of the murders, however, later the victims’ families filed a wrongful death claim. Simpson was found responsible and was made to pay out $33.5 million to their families. Simpson was found liable but not guilty.
In the 1970s Ford, a car manufacturer, brought out the Ford Pintos. It was a very popular model but its gas tank faced the back of the car. As a result, any rear-end collision could result in the gas tank exploding. During manufacturing, it is said that Ford knew the risks but that the design would have been costly to change.
Many Wrongful death claims are made against car manufacturers. Most recently, Takata, a Japanese company were found liable for several deaths after their airbags exploded and sent pieces of metal flying at other people on the road. They were said to know about the potential dangers ten years before the vehicles were recalled but chose not to act because of the cost.
Unintentional injuries are regarded as the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.A. These injuries include situations of medical malpractice, personal injury and birth injuries.
It is clear that the chances of wrongful death are tragically high. So what do you do if you lose someone you love to an act of gross negligence?
Your best course of action is filing a wrongful death lawsuit. However, keep in mind that there’s a finite amount of time for you to pursue action.
The wrongful death statute of limitation in California varies according to the circumstances surrounding the death. So let’s look into these variables, how they affect your case!
However, before we get too specific, let’s understand the concept of a statute of limitation and the reason its so important.
What is a Statute of Limitation?
A statute of limitation is a restriction set on pursuing legal action against someone for a particular offense. It lays down a time period or deadline within which the plaintiff has the opportunity and ability to sue the defendant. If no legal action is taken by this maximum deadline, none can be taken after.
Generally, a statute of limitation follows either one of two principles.
- Discovery rule: The statute of limitation commences at the time of the plaintiff’s discovery of the injury
- Rule of injury: The statute of limitation commences at the time of the injury
If action is taken after the deadline and the plaintiff presents a good enough defense, the court may waive the rule allow the proceedings to continue.
The Subjectivity of State Laws
Each state is governed by its own unique sets of limitations. When filing proceedings in a given jurisdiction it is always important to examine how much time you have until it expires.
Understanding Wrongful Death
Wrongful death refers to a death that arises out of someone else’s negligence, carelessness or failure to exercise due diligence. It is important to note that this is very different from murder.
For one, a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil proceeding, whereas the latter is a criminal proceeding. Another differentiating factor is the intent. Murder implies an intent to kill; wrongful death is an unfortunate consequence of someone’s negligence.
So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s put the two together in the context of California.
The Wrongful Death Statute of Limitation in California
To understand the specifics of this rule, we turn to the California Code of Civil Procedure. This outlines the rules regarding general cases of personal injury that lead to wrongful death, medical malpractice and governmental negligence.
The General Rule: Section 335.1
According to this rule, a wrongful death lawsuit can be initiated within 2 years of the death of the person in question.
This implies a certain subjectivity based on circumstances. For example: If someone dies in a car crash, their family can sue for wrongful death within two years of their death. However, if the victim suffers severe injury, that subsequently results in his death two months post-treatment, then a lawsuit can be initiated two years from then.
So the key takeaway here is that the date of death matters more than the date of the actual accident.
However, in the case of a minor suing for the wrongful death of a parent or guardian, they might be entitled to two years from the day they turn 18.
Medical Malpractice: Section 340.5
Medical malpractice refers to a situation where doctors or medical practitioners do not perform their due diligence, thereby resulting in an injury. For a case of wrongful death, such injury would have to lead to the death of the individual in question.
For situations like these, the code of civil procedure lays down the following limitations:
- Legal action against the doctor, medical professional or staff must be taken within three after the time of injury.or,
- Action must be taken within one year of the discovery of such injury or can be expected to discover such injury.
What happens sooner will set the statute of limitation for a particular case.
Fraud or concealment on the part of the defendant is considered a valid exception to bypassing this deadline.
Governmental Negligence: Suing the State of California
A case involving any government body or employee is subject to an extremely short statute of limitation of six months. It encompasses deaths arising out of medical malpractice as well as personal injury as discussed above. However, the involvement of a governmental entity reduces the time frame down to just six months from the cause of action.
This is laid down under section 911.2 of the California Government Code.
In circumstances like these, it is important to know the credentials of the person involved, in what capacity they have committed their act of negligence and whether it was committed during their course of duty.
There’s an Exception to Every Law
While the wrongful death statute of limitations may seem restrictive, there are exceptions to them as well. Some of these include the absence of the defendant, mental incompetence, bankruptcy, and even a judge’s discretion.
The truth is, exceptions are subjective and your case must be analyzed independently. A wrongful death lawyer or an attorney who specializes in personal injury law or medical malpractice will be able to advise and assist you in your course of action.
Other Relevant Laws You Need to Know
In addition to familiarizing yourself with the wrongful death statute of limitation, you must also examine whether you have the authority to pursue legal action.
Only those authorized under section 377.60 of the California Code of Civil Procedure can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. The section requires the plaintiff to be related to the victim as a spouse, domestic partner, child, financial dependents or through a successional relationship.
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If one of your loved ones has died in unusual circumstances then there is a chance someone else might be at fault. This is what is a wrongful death.
In common law countries such as the United Kingdom or other British based legal systems, it is not possible to sue an individual for wrongful death directly.
In the United States, however, which has adapted its legal system since the expulsion of the British in the 18th Century, it is possible for the courts to find someone responsible for a relatives’ death.
This is known as a wrongful death suit definition. Here’s what you can sue for and who can be sued in a wrongful death claim.
One example is the case of the alleged suicide of billionaire Jeffery Epstein. It may be possible for his relatives to sue the federal government for an unlawful death. This is because his death happened whilst he was in custody.
Who Was Involved in the Death?
The first thing to establish when suing for wrongful death is to establish who was there during your loved one’s death and what role they played.
If your loved one died from drowning in a swimming pool and a lifeguard was present it might be possible to sue them because they may have been preoccupied – for instance, they were looking on the phone – and this may have led to their death.
If your relative or friend died in a car accident then the driver of the other car might have been at fault or if they were a passenger and the driver survived they might be at fault.
Whilst at this stage you might not know whether a person is involved or not it is important to determine who was where and doing what.
What s a Wrongful Death? Incompetence
As well as determining who was there at the time of death, another factor to consider is whether anyone was at fault due to incompetence. Whether there was any incompetence is largely what wrongful deaths are there to determine.
This could include the builders who built a building if it collapsed on your loved one, employees from the local government or health and safety executives from a private company who did not properly warn against the dangers of the situation.
In fact, it is common for local governments to be sued in a wrongful death suit.
It could also mean suing your loved ones’ employers, if they breached federal or state employment laws, overworked them or refused them time off when they said they were sick.
In some circumstances, it could also mean the cleaner if they did not put out a proper sign and your friend or loved one slipped and fell to their death as a result.
You can also sue doctors if they did not carry out surgery to the required regulations, did not use the proper tools or they were too tired to carry out the surgery properly.
Wrongful Deaths – Criminal Behavior
If your loved one died, eg. as a result of being shot during an armed robbery or their deaths were as a result of criminal activity then other people involved in the crime could also be held liable.
U.S law states that you do not have to wait for the defendants in a trial to be found guilty regarding their specific criminal activity. You can bring a wrongful death suit against them whilst the criminal trial is continuing.
Gathering the Evidence
The most important aspect of a wrongful death claim – like any case – is gathering the evidence. To assist you and ensure you do things in the correct way you are going to need a wrongful death lawyer.
But you can be proactive in gathering evidence. You can make a note of all the people who were at the scene, track down any witnesses and compile their contact details, noting down car registration plates and getting hold of any relevant text messages your loved one may have sent
What Kind of Compensation Can You Get?
It is important to remember that a wrongful death suit definition is a civil case, not a criminal one. Whilst, of course, you will want justice for your loved ones, a civil case can only offer financial penalties and not custodial sentences.
Some of the types of compensation you can hope to recover include pain and suffering, to account for the mental pain you suffered as a result of losing someone close.
You can also recover medical bills and expenses if your loved one had to spend a lot of time in hospital but later could not be revived.
If the loved one who died was a close relative such as your mother, father or child then you may have needed to have spent time off work for grief. A wrongful death claim can cover these expenses and ensure you are not out of pocket.
There is also a claim for loss of companionship if the person you lost was a partner or spouse.
Be Sure to Act Now and Lawyer Up
Whilst, of course, the death of a loved one in such tragic circumstances is going to leave you overwhelmed and wanting to spend some time grieving, it is important to make sure you get a good lawyer as soon as possible.
In order to stand a good chance of success, you need to ensure that you get on top of the situation and identify the people involved as soon as possible so they do not escape justice.
Lawyers will collate the evidence swiftly and interview relevant witnesses as soon as possible to ensure their recollection does not fade over time.
What is a wrongful death? The simplest definition is that it stems from the incompetence of another individual or organization which could have prevented the death of a loved one.
Be sure to read more about the work of lawyers and check out the rest of our blog.
If someone you cared about was killed because of someone else’s negligence, then perhaps you’re interested in filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
While the suit won’t erase the emotional pain caused by the loss of a loved one, it will offer you a sense of justice and financial security.
There are many wrongful death lawsuits, but the most common examples include medical malpractice, car accidents, and even intentional murder. Animal bites, negligence in a nursing home, and premises liability also fall under wrongful death claims.
Especially if you’re going up against a powerful individual or company, it can feel impossible to understand the court process, develop strong arguments, and collect evidence.
That’s why so many people choose to hire a wrongful death attorney to help them through it.
But what should you look for in a wrongful death lawyer?
Read on to find out.
1. Experience with Similar Cases
Perhaps the most important quality to look for in a wrongful death attorney is a professional who has lots of experience in working with cases like your own.
OOf course, you want to work with an attorney that specializes in wrongful death lawsuits, but that alone often isn’t enough.
If your loved one was killed by a negligent motorcyclist, ensure that the lawyer you’re considering has had positive outcomes in other wrongful death motorcycle accident cases.
If you’re loved one died of kidney failure due to medical negligence, you need to feel confident that the attorney has gone up against large pharmaceutical firms, hospitals, and medical professionals before.
Ask about their experience not just in lawsuit payouts, but also if they were able to get the individuals responsible disbarred from working again in the future.
2. The Right Credentials
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is seldom a simple procedure.
Companies and individuals responsible for your loved one’s death will hire the biggest legal powerhouses possible in order to avoid having to pay compensation or take a hit to their professional reputations.
If your attorney is inexperienced, this can mean you’re left with nothing, overpowered by the resources of the party you’re suing.
Ask about their court records, the size of past settlements they’ve reached, where they went to school, and the history of their career as a legal professional.
Also ask about how many of the lawsuits go to trial, and how many of them have settled out of court. You should also verify that they’re currently licensed with the American Bar Association to practice law in your state.
Finally, find out if they’re a member of any legal professional guilds or clubs. This will give you a good idea of the kinds of connections they have that may be able to strengthen your case.
3. Ask About Your Case
It’s imperative that you schedule a consultation with a wrongful death attorney before deciding to work with them.
First of all, doing so allows you to evaluate whether or not their communication style meshes with your own. Do you feel like they listened to the specifics of your unique case? Or, are you concerned that the advice they offered you was too general?
Were they able to answer all of the questions you had? Do you feel like they were able to teach you something? Did they take their time with you, or did they seem to rush you through to make way for their next appointment?
Now is also the time to ask the attorney for an overall case assessment.
First, ask them if they believe that you have a legitimate case, and, if so, the potential settlement you could expect. Also, ask them to help you to identify potential roadblocks, and figure out if you can likely settle out of court or if you’ll probably go to trial.
Finally, ask about how long they expect your case to take (with the understanding that this can sometimes be a challenge to accurately predict.)
4. Get Other Opinions
Perhaps you felt you had a very successful consultation with a wrongful death lawyer, and you’re strongly considering hiring them for your case.
Before you sign any contracts, make sure you do a bit more research on what past clients have experienced with this attorney. Ask to speak with two or more references, read online reviews, and even consider getting in touch with professional references to help you make the right choice.
Now is also the time to do your research and ensure that there aren’t any disciplinary actions against the attorney. (This information can easily be found on your state bar website.)
Ask references who else worked on their case, as well. You want to be certain that you’re not paying the attorney’s fee for someone who is really an intern or a lower-level employee.
Make the Right Choice in a Wrongful Death Attorney
Especially given the traumatic nature of a wrongful death court case, hiring the right wrongful death attorney to fight on your behalf can make you much more likely to get the results you deserve.
You don’t have to navigate complicated legal concepts on your own.
Need to learn more about the ins and outs of a typical wrongful death lawsuit?
Curious about the kinds of paperwork you’ll need to file, the right questions to have answers to, and what you can expect when it comes to how settlements pay out?
Our blog has all the answers to those questions and many more. Bookmark us to make sure you make the most of your day in court.
In 2017, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that accidents and unintentional injuries were the third highest leading cause for death in the United States. Some of these accidents were caused by either an individual’s or organization’s negligence. Causes of these deaths ranged from medical malpractice to workplace accidents.
Did you recently lose a loved one in this similar scenario? If so, then you may be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Read this guide to understanding how wrongful death cases work. Learn how this process works and our justice system will help you recover your damages.
Wrongful Death Defined
A wrongful death claim blames a defendant for causing a person’s death through negligence or reckless conditions. The accuser (plaintiff) is the deceased person’s estate. Wrongful death cases can only be filed by personal representatives of the plaintiff, which are usually surviving family members.
Process for Wrongful Death Cases: Step by Step
Submitting a wrongful death claim may not be your first priority after losing a loved one. You’re naturally going to be feeling other emotions like despair or shock.
Keep these following steps in mind to build your wrongful death lawsuit to support your case further down the road:
Collect Your Evidence
Proof will be the center of your wrongful death claim. Keep copies of all medical bills or receipts for medication and equipment. Write down any of your loved one’s medical details that you can remember to preserve what events took place.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney
There are many resources to help you hire a lawyer for your wrongful death lawsuit. Legal professionals can guide your case through the justice system so that you can recover your damages fully.,
When looking for a wrongful death attorney, find a lawyer who has litigation experience. There’s a chance that you won’t be able to negotiate a settlement. When this happens, your case moves toward onto a trial and you’ll want a lawyer with many years of experience in a courtroom setting.
After you present your own facts and evidence to a potential wrongful death attorney, they will conduct their own investigation into your claim. If they think that you have a case worth merit, the may agree to represent you.
Research Your State’s Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is a legal term that applies to the deadline you have after an event to file a lawsuit. If you don’t file your lawsuit before this deadline, you won’t collect any money for your damages.
Although these deadlines vary between states, lawsuits generally must be filed within two years of the date the negligent or reckless behavior caused the victim’s death.
If you are filing a lawsuit against a governmental or public agency, you file an “administrative claim with that specific office. The deadline to submit an administrative claim is within six months of the victim’s death. The government agency must respond to your claim within 45 days.
The government agency may deny your claim in writing. If they do, then you can bring suit against them in court. Wrongful death attorneys are very familiar with these deadlines and can help you craft your communications with these agencies.
Filing a Law Suit for Damages
Filing a lawsuit notifies your local court system that you intend to recover damages from the at-fault person or organization. This legal claim is built on your fact gathering information (i.e., site pictures, medical records, etc.) Your attorney will also write a legal argument on why the defendant should pay for your damages.
If you file a lawsuit, the at-fault organization or party must respond to you. This response is called an “answer.” If you don’t hear from them, the court might automatically rule in your favor. If the at-fault party disagrees with your arguments, your suit moves into the discovery process.
After your lawsuit has been filed, both the defendant and the plaintiff sides exchange legal information and about your lawsuit. Each party “discovers” the other side’s evidence so that everyone involved can choose their best next steps.
During this phase, lawyers conduct what’s called a deposition. A deposition involves taking statements from witnesses before a hearing.
Both sides in the case can interview witnesses who must tell the truth. Once both parties have heard these statements, they can decide whether to proceed to trial or negotiate a settlement.
Negotiate a Wrongful Death Settlement
After the discovery phase, many courts may require attorneys for both parties to schedule a settlement conference with a judge to help the parties negotiate a settlement. The courts will often recommend that parties try to settle their case rather than endure a lengthy and expensive court action.
If both sides agree to privately settle the matter, then the lawsuit is dropped. Lawyers on both sides will create a settlement document that spells out expectations that suits both parties. If you and the other party can’t agree on a settlement, then your lawsuit moves forward to a hearing.
Wrongful Death Hearing
A hearing will be scheduled before a judge or jury to pass a final decision on the lawsuit. During the hearing, wrongful death lawyers will question and cross-examine witnesses. This is also the time when they submit evidence and present arguments.
During this hearing, either a jury or judge will have the final decision on whether the plaintiffs should recover damages. The jury or judge will also decide how much money can be recovered as well. Both plaintiffs and defendants can appeal a final judgment and award amount that doesn’t turn in their favor.
If you think you have a legitimate wrongful death claim on your hands, then you need to act today. Collect and organize your own records to outline the history of events leading up to your loved one’s tragic death.
Schedule appointments with as many different law offices as you can to find the right professionals to represent you. Be sure to ask them for specifics on their discovery and trial experiences.
You can also check out our website for more information on wrongful death cases. Use our online lawyer directory to help you find the attorney that’s right for you.
Enduring the loss of a loved one due to medical malpractice is a painful experience. Besides the grief of unexpected death, families are left with their trust of healthcare professionals altered forever.
One option for families is to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Not only can successful litigation help recoup significant financial losses; it can also bring survivors a sense of closure.
Do you have a case for a wrongful death suit due to malpractice? Read on to find out what you should expect.
Who Can File For Wrongful Death?
The closest living relative of the deceased will often be the one to file. This could be a spouse, parent, or child. This person should also be the administrator or executor of the departed’s estate.
It’s important for the surviving family to agree on a representative to act on the deceased’s behalf. Should there be a dispute as to the chosen representative, a court of law may have to resolve to appoint someone.
Who Is Liable?
Both hospitals and doctors hold potential liability in malpractice cases. Each state has unique laws on medical malpractice. Which party is responsible will rely heavily on the specific situation that led to death.
Medical mistakes are now the third leading cause of death in the US. The umbrella encompassing those responsible is a large one, so there could be many potential defendants in a wrongful death suit. You can read more here about who can be guilty of medical errors in this article from the Law Office of Scott D DeSalvo.
What Damages Can I Claim?
Each state has rules on what damages can be recovered in a wrongful death case. In general, though, there are a few different types of damages that a deceased’s family is eligible for.
Customary damages can be lost earnings and employment benefits caused by unresolved illness. Medical bills and funeral expenses are often covered as well. Some states also allow a dollar amount to be placed on the pain and suffering of the deceased and their family.
If the deceased was a financial supporter of plaintiffs in the case, damages may also be awarded to offset the loss of support and income due to the untimely death. The burden of proof falls on the family to show that they were financially supported, and by how much.
Repayment of the deceased’s “expected contributions” might include college tuition, spousal support for the widow or widower, and other long-term payments.
Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer
If you’ve lost a loved one due to medical error or negligence, you have a short window in which to file for legal action. Prosecuting the responsible party can ease the financial burden of funeral expenses and protect the family from losses in income and assistance previously provided by the deceased.
Navigating the restrictions of medical malpractice laws can be confusing, especially for a family still grieving. Wrongful death suits are best handled by a law professional with experience in criminal malpractice.
If you need help finding someone to represent your case, check out our guide on how to find the best medical malpractice lawyers.
Tragedies happen more than they should in this life. When someone dies as a result of another person or entity’s negligence, justice must be served. Families will likely want to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or entity responsible.
Such a lawsuit will seek damages and compensation for the family’s loss. This can include lost wages, funeral expenses, and more.
In the wake of such a tragedy, it’s hard to know which way is up. Is the death of your loved one legally considered wrongful death? We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about wrongful death claims below.
What Does The Law Consider A Wrongful Death?
One brings a wrongful death claim to court when a person dies due to the legal fault of another individual or entity. There are hundreds of thousands of such situations in a given year. It’s determining the idea of legal fault that becomes so tricky in most wrongful death cases.
Wrongful death is a relatively new concept in the American legal system. It was instituted over the last country in courts of all sizes and jurisdictions. Today, every state in the country has laws that cover wrongful death.
Car accidents, medical malpractice, and other such incidents all frequently fall under the umbrella of wrongful death. In most cases, negligence is a key factor in determining if an individual or entity is at legal fault when it comes to death.
Who Can Sue For Wrongful Death?
Many people feel the effect of the death of an individual. Our lives touch many, and family, friends, co-workers, and more may be deeply affected and saddened by such a loss.
But who is legally allowed to step up and file a lawsuit?
A wrongful death claim is filed by a survivor who has suffered damages as a result of the victim’s death. Who these individuals might vary from state to state.
In most cases, immediate family members will be the ones to bring the case to court. Spouses, children, and parents can recover damages under wrongful death laws in all states across the country.
In some states, domestic life partners and financial dependents have a right to such damages. And in only some states can more distant family members, like siblings, aunts, and uncles, and so forth, file such a case.
There are a few states that allow anyone with proof of financial suffering to sue. They do not have to have any blood relation to the individual to do so.
Determining Legal Fault
Most individuals and entities across the United States can be found guilty in a wrongful death case. Individuals involved in accidental deaths can be found guilty, but often so can manufacturers, designers, businesses, and establishments.
In some states, certain government agents or agencies have immunity against wrongful death claims.
In order to successfully receive damages for a wrongful death case, a number of things must be proved. An individual must have died, and it must be the result of another’s negligence. The survivors must have proof of financial suffering, and have been officially appointed to represent the deceased.
Proving negligence can be difficult. The court must establish duty, breach, cause in fact, and damages when proving that negligence has occurred. You should learn more about negligence and catastrophic injuries before trying to make a case.
It is possible for multiple parties to be negligent in a particular case. For example, both a driver and the manufacturer of a road could be found legally negligent in a wrongful death case.
Determining legal negligence can be tricky and requires the help of a trained legal professional. Make sure you have quality representation on your side when attempting to file a wrongful death suit.
Determining Damages For Wrongful Death
There are three types of damages that will be available in a wrongful death suit. They are economic, punitive, and non-economic.
Economic damages intend to replace the financial contribution that the individual would have brought to the survivors. This includes lost wages, benefits, and loss of potential inheritance. It also includes the costs of funeral and death services.
Non-economic damages include less tangible effects like emotional pain and suffering. They are damages intended to supplement the loss of guidance, love, and companionship the survivors would have received from the deceased.
Punitive damages aren’t available in every wrongful death suit. They intend to punish the defendant for bad behavior or extreme negligence. In some situations, the victims can have their attorney fees covered by the defendant.
Calculating the exact value of such damages can be extremely difficult. Loss of life isn’t easily quantifiable in terms of money, and there can be much debate and negotiation in determining such an amount.
That’s why it’s so important for those suing for wrongful death to have proper legal representation. Wrongful death damages can be slippery and it’s important for victims to get the amount that they rightfully deserve.
Often, expert witnesses and economists come in to offer their professional opinion on the proper damage amount. This process can include lengthy and often stressful calculations.
Do You Have A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Losing a loved one can be a terribly difficult time for anyone. The loss of a companion can be debilitating and disorienting. But it’s important to look at the facts surrounding your loved one’s death and determine if a wrongful death has occurred.
If it has, your family has the right to bring forward a wrongful death lawsuit and receive the damages they deserve.
Need more legal help? Check out our blog for more advice, tips, and tricks.
With medical errors now ranked as one of the leading causes of death in the US, there’s recourse in the medical world for wrongful deaths. However, there are a lot more examples of wrongful death cases that need to be accounted for when you lose a loved one. Your loved one may not be here to see justice, but you could seek it on their behalf to ensure that no one else has to pay bills to bury anyone they love.
Here are five examples of potential cases for a suit.
1. Lost During A Terrorist Attack
If you lose a loved one during a terrorist attack, you might think that it’s as random as an act of god, but depending on the context, you might have recourse. If your loved one works as an independent contractor and didn’t know the danger, that’s someone else’s fault. If they were misled about the dangers and other employees were warned, you need to talk about filing a suit.
While some attacks are random, others around the world come via conflict that a group is engaged in. If your loved one was an engineer working to create an oil pipeline across an area deep in conflict, they need to know the conditions. If they’re not warned that they’re stepping into dangerous territory or they’re left without protection, then you could seek compensation.
Some insurance policies now cover company employees in case there’s an attack. Other companies won’t agree to cover people in this case. You need to find out what the company’s insurance policy was.
This gets tricky when someone is a hired contractor, but if they’re in the vicinity of the attack, they’re due compensation. We live in a dangerous world, but that doesn’t mean that we should be at risk at our jobs.
2. Fatal Accident Caused By Commercial Driver
A road is a treacherous place, with people driving for hours while exhausted, driving while distracted, or driving dangerous vehicles.
If you spend a lot of time on the country’s many winding highways, you know how just a little bit of rain and bad timing can make you stressed out. With all of the large commercial trucks out on the highways, it’s an open secret that most drivers go for too many hours in one go. They’ll drive for 16 hours straight, using coffee, ephedrine, or even illegal substances to stay moving.
While this is the exception, not the rule, truck accidents from drivers who are overtired is a real danger to look out for. If your loved one was in a fatal accident because of a commercial driver, you should submit them to a toxicology test. This is customary from most insurance companies but could be overlooked within all the chaos.
While companies will blame road conditions, wildlife, or just about anything else other than driver negligence, you need to do your research. Looking into what caused the accident can help you to find out whether or not you’re owed compensation. A negligent and reckless driver should be held accountable.
3. Construction Accident
If your loved one is in the construction industry, an accident could end up turning into a fatal situation. When passing by a construction site, the people working on the site could end up leaving the site in a condition that creates an accident. People working on the site could end up being hurt by someone else’s negligence.
Unless your loved one is trespassing on a site, if they were standing in a safe zone, passing by, or a registered visitor, an accident isn’t their fault. When walking on a site, it’s customary to wear safety gear and a hard hat. However, those safety items can’t protect for all of the conditions that make a construction site dangerous.
A construction accident that takes the life of your loved one is tragic no matter what. If it comes due to someone else’s negligence, then it’s infuriating. Someone should be held responsible for the accident.
You’ll have a strong case if there’s clear negligence at play either from people working on the site or from the company running it.
4. Death in a Commerical Building
If your loved one dies in a shop, at a warehouse, or any kind of place where business is conducted, there’s recourse for you. If they were struck by a falling fixture, hurt by another type of building element, or attacked by an employee, then you should have a strong case.
In most commercial buildings, there is insurance to cover the people who are working there. There’s also coverage to ensure that visitors get what they’re owed when they suffer due to the people on site. Liability insurance is meant to ensure that you get what you’re owed in the case of wrongful death.
Any kind of negligence or faulty elements in a building that harm someone else makes you due for a lawsuit. See what Sweet Lawyers can offer if you want to know whether you have a case.
5. Poisoned By Food Products
If you’re one of the many people who has contracted something due to commercial food products, you have a case. If this gets to the point where your loved one is fatally poisoned by one of these products, there’s a likelihood you could sue.
Food products must be adequately tested and monitored to ensure that they don’t contract fatal or dangerous bacteria. This is especially true with natural perishable food products like greens, cheeses, and animal products. They can quickly contract problems that spread across a whole site.
Someone killed by inadequate testing would be due money from the company who failed to test the products.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
When you look at all the potential examples of wrongful death cases, you’ll notice that the main throughline is negligence. When someone has the life of someone else in their hands and fumbles, they should be held accountable.
If you or your loved one is still here to fight for an injury case, check out our guide for more info.
What is Stevens-Johnson syndrome?
Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and the related condition toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) are serious and potentially life-threatening disorders that can affect your skin and the moist inner lining of certain organs.
SJS/TEN are rare skin reactions, but when they occur, they are considered medical emergencies and usually require hospitalization. These two conditions exist on a spectrum. While SJS is indeed a serious medical emergency, TEN is even more severe and life-threatening.
Flu-like symptoms – fatigue, fever, sore mouth and throat, cough, and burning eyes – are usually the first signs of SJS/TEN. Skin-related symptoms occur later. A painful reddish-purple rash spreads and turns into blisters. These blisters can appear on the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, and genitals.
After blistering, the outer layer of skin dies, peels, and eventually heals. The extent of skin involvement distinguishes SJS from TEN:
- SJS is a skin peeling on 10% or less of the body.
- SJS & TEN overlap and are defined as skin peeling on 10-30% of the body.
- TEN is defined as skin peeling on more than 30% of the body.
SJS/TEN can occur at any age, but most frequently affects children and young adults (ages 20-40 years old). People with history of bone marrow transplants, systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), or chronic joint diseases are at increased risk of developing the condition.
What are the expected outcomes for someone with SJS/TEN?
In the short term, SJS/TEN can be debilitating and painful. Sores on the linings of the mouth, throat, genitals, and eyes can make normal bodily functions difficult. For example, it can be difficult for affected individuals to eat or close their mouths. Their eyes can become swollen shut. Sores in the lining of the digestive and respiratory tracts can cause diarrhea, pneumonia, and make it difficult to breathe.
Because skin loss is a primary characteristic of SJS and TEN, subsequent fluid loss, organ failure, and infection are significant concerns.
SJS and TEN are short-term conditions, but they can cause lasting, chronic effects. After recovery, a person may have to cope with difficult and expensive health outcomes for the rest of their lives:
- Infections like cellulitis (skin infection) and sepsis (potentially fatal bloodstream infection)
- Damage to the cornea, possibly resulting in loss of vision
- Respiratory disorders like acute respiratory failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Permanent skin damage (bumps, pigmentation, abnormal nail growth, itching, sweating, and dryness)
Unfortunately, some people who develop SJS/TEN do not survive the condition and related complications. The death rate associated with SJS is 5%. The death rate associated with TEN is up to 25% in adults and less than 10% in children.
What causes SJS/TEN?
Seventy-five percent of SJS/TEN cases are caused by medications, while 25% are caused by certain conditions, infections, or have an unknown cause (idiopathic SJS/TEN). Despite these statistics, the likelihood of developing SJS/TEN is typically due to a combination of genetic, environmental, and immunological factors. Certain groups of people are more likely to develop SJS/TEN:
- Weakened immune system
- Personal history or family history of SJS/TEN
- Belonging to an ethnic group that carries the HLA-B 1502 gene (e.g., Chinese, Southeast Asian, Indian)
Infections that have been known to precipitate SJS/TEN include:
- Herpes simplex (genital herpes or cold sores) or herpes zoster (shingles)
- Hepatitis A
Other conditions that could cause SJS/TEN include graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) and some vaccinations.
Antibiotics like penicillin are the most common medication triggers of SJS/TEN, but there are several other medications that can cause the disease:
- Anti-gout medications like allopurinol
- Anticonvulsants like phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), lamotrigine (Lamictal), valproic acid (Depakote) and phenobarbital
- Cough and cold medications
- Nevirapine, an HIV drug
- NSAIDs, especially those that end with -oxicam
What does treatment of SJS/TEN involve?
SJS/TEN treatment is intense and expensive. Almost always, a person who develops either condition will be hospitalized.
First, the doctor will discontinue all non-essential medications to try to determine the cause. The core of treatment will consist of wound care to prevent infections, eye care, and fluid replacement. Pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics may also be required.
Expensive medications and procedures may also be necessary:
- A medication called cyclosporine may help shorten the duration of blistering.
- Immune globulins can help block antibodies to prevent additional damage.
- A plasma exchange may help remove substances from the blood that may have caused SJS/TEN.
Beyond the burdensome length of hospitalization, the type of care the affected person requires also adds to the expense. Because of the nature of SJS/TEN, the patient will need a specialist doctor and placement in an intensive care unit (ICU) and/or burn unit. Skin regrowth can take 2-3 weeks, but full recovery may not be complete for months.
Do I have a medical malpractice case?
Families who have been impacted by Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis unfortunately understand how dire circumstances can become. Without prompt, emergent treatment, people who develop SJS or TEN may not have the opportunity to recover completely or at all.
Furthermore, the short-term and long-term expenses of caring for someone who has experienced SJS or TEN can be prohibitive.