As thousands of people are killed on the job every year, there’s often a party to be held responsible for working conditions that are dangerous.
If you’re saddled with handling the estate, the family, or any emotions left behind by their death, you could file a wrongful death suit. While it’s a challenging thing to do in the midst of the emotions you feel following their death, it’s your right and responsibility.
Here is everything you need to know about when you can and should file a suit like this.
Know When It’s Applicable
Knowing when to file a wrongful death claim is a major factor in winning one. If you file one at the wrong time or under the wrong circumstances, you could fumble an otherwise winnable case. Consider a wrongful death claim one that the now-deceased would have filed as a case of negligence or personal injury if they were around to do so.
The defendant in these cases is going to be accused of an intentionally harmful act they should have worked to avoid if they were acting responsibly.
When someone is intentionally killed, you’ve got the case for a wrongful death case. This is a civil suit, so if someone is acquitted for the capital crime of murder, you can seek a secondary lawsuit of wrongful death.
If someone dies because of medical malpractice where the doctor failed to do their job correctly, you’ve got ground for wrongful death. In these cases, the doctor is the one who is sued for the wrongful death and held responsible. This is a common situation for this type of case, and many lawyers can be found with experience in cases like this.
When a loved one is killed in a car accident by a commercial driver or someone who was negligent, you can open a lawsuit. Wrongful death is applicable when what would otherwise be a personal injury lawsuit would apply. While these are challenging and emotional lawsuits to bring, they’re important.
Fault Must Be Proven
When you’re looking to hold someone accountable for wrongful death, you need to work to prove the defendant is liable. As the plaintiff, you’re in a challenging position to meet the burden of proof. Through the estate of the victim, you’ll have to work to deal with the same kind of scrutiny the deceased would have had to.
When there’s a case of negligence you have to prove, it’s vital to show what kind of care the defendant should have afforded. This is called a “duty of care”, and you need to show exactly how the defendant breached that duty and caused the death of the now deceased. That death must be very clearly related to the action that the defendant did or didn’t take.
It’s hard to prove intention, so you often need to have written or sworn evidence. You could use witnesses to help build the case, but their testimony is going to be slippery. If you’re suing a company or the driver of a vehicle for a company, you’ll have to get people who can testify on the lack of safety training afforded to drivers.
There Are Limits to Who Can File
At the bare minimum, you usually have to be some kind of representative of the estate. The deceased victim is going to have to have someone handling the estate, either a family member or a lawyer. It’s common for someone to be elected to speak on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with the victim.
In every state, there are different regulations that determine who can be held responsible for a wrongful death lawsuit. However, in every single state, a spouse is allowed to bring about a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased spouse. When a minor is killed, the parents and guardians are also allowed to bring about a case to seek compensation.
Minors can collect on behalf of deceased parents who are wrongfully killed.
Some states allow the parents of adult children to sue while other states don’t. Sometimes adult children can sue on behalf of parents, depending on the state they’re in. In other cases, states allow siblings to occasionally sue on behalf of their grown siblings.
No two states have the same laws when it comes to extended family like uncles, aunts, and cousins. When a familial relationship is more distant, it’s much harder to show who is allowed to collect damages. In some states, any companion of any gender who had financial dependence on the deceased is allowed their day in court.
Understanding the Damages
There are several categories of damages when it comes to this kind of suit. Each category is going to have its own set of standards for how much of an award it carries. However, if compensation doesn’t matter as much as justice, you should go for broke.
Some of the damages can relate to how much pain and suffering the deceased went through. If they suffered before dying, there could have been loved ones caring for them. There could also be medical bills attached to the lawsuit that needs to be taken care of.
If there were funeral and burial costs that the family or estate couldn’t bear, then the negligent party should be held responsible. If there was expected income that was supporting the family, that’s a major issue. That could lead to awards that figure into the millions of dollars.
Wrongful Death Merits a Response
When you’re overcoming a wrongful death, a lawsuit makes a lot of those financial challenges much easier. Worrying about putting food on the table shouldn’t be a part of your thought process when someone dies.
If you end up with a generous reward after your suit wraps up, check out our guide to learn how you can invest in a house with the money you get.