Negligence causing death - Wrongful Death Claims
The attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are (unfortunately) experienced in wrongful death claims. These types of claims are brought against a defendant who has caused someone's death either negligently or by intentionally killing them (think OJ Simpson being sued for the wrongful death for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman). A wrongful death claim allows the estate of the deceased person to file a lawsuit against the party who is legally liable for the death.
Wrongful death suits usually arise from car crashes or medical malpractice. Wrongful death suits involving medical malpractice cases often arise in nursing home abuse cases or when a doctor fails to diagnose a condition, or if the doctor was careless in the level of care provided, and death results. Note that, although workplace accidents are all too common, the Worker’s Compensation scheme usually compensates the survivor(s), rather than a wrongful death suit.
Because over 40,000 Americans are killed in car crashes each year, the most common wrongful death suits handled by the attorneys at TheLawFirm.com are car crash fatalities.
Each State makes its own rules about who can bring such a claim. However, in all states, a spouse may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of his or her deceased spouse. Parents of minors may also bring a wrongful death action if one of their children is killed, and minors can collect compensation for the death of their parents.
However, as the distance grows in the family relationship, so does the difficulty in suing. For example, States have different rules about allowing the parents of adult children to sue. The same is true of adult children suing for wrongful death of their parents, grown siblings suing for wrongful death, an unmarried life partner, someone with financial dependence on the victim, or extended relatives like cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents. In such scenarios it is important to speak to an attorney who is familiar with the rules in the appropriate State.
In order to hold the defendant liable in a wrongful death suit, the Plaintiff must meet the same burden of proof that the victim would have had to meet had the victim lived. In car crash cases, this means proving that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the death, and that the death caused the damages that the plaintiff is trying to recover.
Allowable damages in a wrongful death claim vary from State to State. However, common categories include:
• The medical costs that the victim incurred as a result of the injury prior to death (if any)
• The victim’s pre-death pain and suffering. This is usually called a survival claim in a wrongful death case
• Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the victim would have provided
• Loss of love and companionship
• Funeral and burial costs
• Value of the services that the victim would have provided
• Loss of consortium
• Loss of the victim’s expected income
• Loss of any inheritance as a result of the death
These categories are quite broad and are meant to compensate the survivor(s) of the premature death of a loved one.