A wrongful death claim arises when the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act or negligence of another that would have given the victim a right to sue had she lived.
A wrongful death can result from many situations, for instance:
- An automobile accident
- A trucking (tractor trailer) accident
- Work related incident
- Medical Malpractice
- Product Liability
A personal representative of the estate of the deceased person is authorized to file a lawsuit against those responsible. Some of the damages that are recoverable in a wrongful death case include:
1) Medical, hospital, funeral and burial expenses;
2) Decedent’s pain and suffering between the time of injury and death;
3) The monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages recovered, including (a) net income of the decedent, (b) services, protection, care and assistance of the decedent to the persons entitled to the damages recovered, and (c) society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent to the persons entitled to the damages recovered;
4) Punitive damages for wrongfully causing the death of the decedent through malice or willful or wanton conduct; and
5) Nominal damages.
The purpose of the Wrongful Death Statute is to compensate the beneficiaries for their loss. In circumstances where there has been an egregious act by the party at fault, the court may also consider punishing that person or business by rewarding punitive damages in hopes that those actions will never be repeated. No amount of damages can replace a loved one, and a judgment will never ease the pain. But a judgment or settlement may effect some accountability for the death of a loved one and bring closure to those who suffered the loss.
Although filing a wrongful death claim is probably the last thing going through a survivor’s mind, it is extremely important to act quickly. Experience shows that the “other side” is already gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses in an effort to build a strong defense.
Accordingly, if you have recently lost a loved one and feel it was the result of another person’s negligence, contact an attorney with experience in handling wrongful death claims who can initiate an investigation. One of the most common mistakes a family member can make when dealing with a wrongful death claim is to assume that all personal injury attorneys are the same when it comes to handling these complex matters. Unfortunately, that’s just not so.