After losing a loved one, family members may be entitled to wrongful death compensation. But is proving a wrongful death claim difficult? It can be, depending on the facts surrounding your case. Fortunately, with the assistance of an experienced wrongful death lawyer, you and your family can pursue justice on behalf of the deceased.
What Qualifies As Wrongful Death?
Legal matters in which one person dies due to accidental or intentional negligence are considered wrongful death. For example, imagine a motor vehicle driver decides to operate their car while under the influence of alcohol. If their reckless behavior results in losing your loved one, the fatality may constitute wrongful death.
Keep in mind that wrongful death cases are civil suits, not criminal cases. Therefore, they do not seek to punish defendants for crimes such as homicide and violence. Instead, a wrongful death claim seeks to compensate family members who suffered economic and non-economic losses due to the fatality.
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Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
Specific family members may bring a wrongful death suit against the negligent party. In most cases, the deceased’s spouse, children, and parents may file the claim. However, the specifics of who can bring the suit vary between states. For example, any family who received direct financial support from the deceased can pursue a wrongful death claim in some states.
To understand who can file a wrongful death claim in your state, speak with a wrongful death lawyer in your area.
Is There a Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations?
Yes, every state adheres to wrongful death deadlines, and it’s important to know yours. The statute of limitations usually begins from the date of death, not the date of injury. If you fail to take legal action within the necessary timeframe, you may not be able to collect compensation.
To prevent this, consult with a wrongful death attorney right away. A legal professional will take immediate action to file your claim and pursue justice from the liable party.
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Proving Wrongful Death
Most wrongful death cases require thorough investigation. Even if you believe the case is clear-cut, you still need to collect sound evidence to prove how the at-fault party caused the fatal accident. Examples of reliable evidence in a wrongful death case include:
- Witness statements
- Medical and accident reconstructionist evaluations
- Photos or video footage from the accident scene
- Police reports
- Workplace incident reports
To recover compensation in a wrongful death suit, the decedent’s family or representative must prove that another party’s negligence caused or contributed to their loved one’s passing. Without evidence to support the claim, the at-fault party or insurance provider can deny liability to avoid making a settlement.
In a wrongful death case, there are four critical components that you must prove to secure a financial recovery. If you can demonstrate these four elements of negligence, you can secure a financial recovery for your loved one’s passing.
Duty of Care
To establish negligence, you must prove that the at-fault party owed your loved one a duty of care. The duty refers to a person’s obligation to act within reason and prevent causing unnecessary harm to others.
For example, property owners have a duty of care to provide reasonably safe premises to visitors. They must take action to maintain the property and keep it free of hazardous conditions. Likewise, motor vehicle drivers have a duty of care to obey traffic laws and operate their vehicles in a reasonably safe manner while on the road.
A qualified lawyer can determine whether the at-fault party owed your loved one a duty of care.
Breach of Duty
Once you establish a duty of care, you must show how the other party violated that obligation. A wrongful death lawyer can investigate your accident and collect evidence to demonstrate how the negligent party violated their duty of care to cause your loved one’s death.
For example, suppose a property owner knows about a dangerous condition on their property but fails to make the area safe or alert others of the danger. If your loved one suffers a fatal accident due to the hazardous condition, the property owner can be held accountable.
In another example, imagine a driver texting while driving at the time of an accident. Driving while distracted is negligent behavior, and it constitutes a breach of duty of care.
Next, you need to establish that the other party’s actions or inaction caused your loved one’s passing. For instance, if your loved one died in a car accident, you must prove that the death resulted from the collision, not pre-existing conditions.
Imagine your loved one tripped on a broken sidewalk, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and died. You can claim that the death resulted from the property owner’s negligence. However, if your loved one suffered a heart attack immediately before the fall, the at-fault party can argue that the death was due to heart failure, not the damaged sidewalk.
Establishing causation is one of the hardest steps in proving wrongful death. Insurance adjusters will use anything they can to prove that the accident did not result in the death and avoid making a payout. But experienced injury attorneys know this, and they take action to affirm that the accident was the reason for your loved one’s fatality.
Economic and Non-Economic Damages
Finally, you must prove that you incurred damages because of your loved one’s passing. You can do this by presenting evidence demonstrating the loss of economic support that you and your family endured due to the death. You are also entitled to compensation for any expenses associated with your loved one’s funeral service and final medical bills.
Additionally, you may be entitled to recover for non-economic damages that you and your family sustained due to the loss of your loved one. Non-economic damages in a wrongful death suit include pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of parental guidance or spousal support.
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What Situations Warrant Wrongful Death Claims?
Wrongful death suits allow family members to seek justice for a loss of life in the form of financial compensation. Therefore, if you lost a loved one due to someone else’s negligence and the death caused your family to undergo losses, you may be eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that unintentional injuries are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. These accidents form the basis of wrongful death claims. Examples of unintentional accidents include:
- Medical malpractice: A medical professional breaches their duty to provide reasonable care to all patients.
- Nursing home neglect: Nursing home staff fail to provide adequate care to residents.
- Motor vehicle accidents: Negligent car, truck, bus, or motorcycle drivers cause the death of your loved one.
- Workplace accidents: Employers fail to provide safe workplaces, resulting in fatal accidents.
- Premises liability: Property owners or occupiers do not maintain secure premises, and their negligence causes fatal injuries.
Receiving a Wrongful Death Settlement
There is no way to know how long it will take to settle a wrongful death claim. Every case is unique.The timeline typically depends on how quickly you pursue legal action, the complexity of the claim and if the liable insurance company agrees to make the settlement.
Once your wrongful death lawyer gathers and evaluates all evidence of fault and damages, they can determine a fair recovery, which they demand from the at fault party or parties.
Hire a Lawyer to Prove Your Wrongful Death Claim
It can be challenging to prove a wrongful death claim. In the wake of losing a loved one, taking legal action can be emotionally draining. But a wrongful death attorney from Dansker & Aspromonte Associates can assist by gathering the necessary evidence to support your claim while you and your family focus on healing. We have been fighting for injury victims and their families since 1988.
Contact our law firm if you reside in the New York City metropolitan area and want to learn more about filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Our team of experienced wrongful death lawyers is always ready to help you. Call for a free consultation now. If we agree to accept your case, you will not be required to pay us any money upfront. We only collect a legal fee when you recover compensation.