August 28, 2019 Last updated August 28th, 2019 40 Reads share

How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works

Wrongful Death Lawsuit WorksImage Credit: Deposit Photos

The death of a loved one can leave you devastated. It can deprive you of happiness and hope. This is especially the case if the death was sudden and unexpected if the person was taken from you well before their time. As you recover from the shock of death, you will, of course, want to know more about how it happened. And if you have evidence that negligence, recklessness, foul play, or some other human-made circumstance led directly to the death of your loved one, you should think about filing a wrongful death suit. A wrongful death lawyer can help you.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim can be filed when the intentional action or negligence of one party led to the death of another. If your loved one was taken owing to such circumstances, then the first thing you should do is hire a wrongful death lawyer. You will have many questions. And in your first consultation with the lawyer, you will be asked many questions. The first thing that must be sorted out is standing. Before doing anything else, your lawyer will determine whether it is legally permissible for you to file a wrongful death suit.

Wrongful death claims can be filed by the immediate surviving family members of the deceased or by a representative of the deceased person’s estate. The law concerning who can file a wrongful death claim varies with each state.

It is the case that in all states the surviving spouse can file a wrongful death suit. The parents of minors can also bring such action if their children are wrongfully killed. Minors who have lost their parents can also file a suit. There is no agreement among the states as to whether parents of adult children or adult children of parents can sue. There is also a variation on whether cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents can sue. In some states, it is even possible for the long-term live-in partner of the deceased to sue.

The further away in relation, you were to the departed, the harder it will be for you to demonstrate standing. In some instances, it may be possible for you to prove that you were in fact much closer to the deceased than the formal relation suggests and that their death will affect you more than anyone else they knew.

The Circumstances for Filing a Wrongful Death Suit

A wrongful death suit can be filed in a variety of circumstances. They include:

1. Murder

If your loved one was murdered, it is possible for you to file a civil suit against the person who did it. Such a suit is separate from the criminal prosecution, though evidence from the latter can be used in the former. Even if the state fails to prove its case against the suspected murderer, they can still be taken to civil court. Here the bar is lower: it is not reasonable doubt, but a preponderance of the evidence. This can make it easier to prove the case against them.

The most famous instance of an acquittal in a criminal case and a conviction in a civil case is the Goldman family versus O.J. Simpson. The family’s victory over Simpson in a wrongful death civil suit led to their acquisition of large parts of his estate. To this day, Simpson still owes the Goldman family, and they continue to pursue him.

2. Accident fatalities

If your loved one was killed in a car accident caused by someone’s inattention or recklessness, that person can be sued for wrongful death. If the person is wealthy, their estate can be forced to pay a large settlement. If they are not so well off, it may be possible for you to sue their insurance company.

3. Medical malpractice

If your loved one died owing to the oversight, negligence, or incompetence of a doctor, you can file a wrongful death suit. A misdiagnosis that leads to a fatal illness, a mis-prescription that causes a fatal allergic reaction, mistakes made during surgery—these are just a few of the grounds on which a medical malpractice suit can be filed.

How a Lawyer Can Help

West Coast trial lawyers help ordinary people get justice. A wrongful death suit is not about revenge; it is about holding people accountable. It can also be a practical way of surviving. If you were financially dependent on the person who died, then you will need financial support until you can become financially independent. This is a practical need faced by many survivors. And it is one that personal injury lawyer can help them meet.

The circumstances of your loved one’s death may be investigated by police or some other formal body. However, your wrongful death attorney will not stop with such reports. They will employ an in-house private investigation team to make further inquiries into the case. This can lead to the discovery of new evidence and additional facts.

Your lawyer will re-interview witnesses. There are people who prefer not to deal with law enforcement, but they do not mind speaking to civilian investigators. In the case of a fatal car crash, your legal team may speak to someone who captured the entire accident on their phone camera. In the case of a murder, the investigators may find a witness who was previously unwilling to come forward but now is.

Your wrongful death attorney will also employ medical and scientific specialists. Such persons can make statements and offer testimony that speaks to what went wrong in a medical procedure or how a car accident killed the person you loved. Such expert testimony can prove your contention that your loved one would have lived if not for the recklessness or negligence of certain persons.

What Must Be Proven

The standard of proof for every civil case is the preponderance of the evidence. In other words, your legal team must pile up enough evidence to demonstrate that the death of your loved one owed to the action or inaction of the defendant. Whether the respondent is a physician who failed to meet the minimum standard of care or a driver who was drunk, overtired, or inattentive when they hit your loved one’s vehicle, it is up to your legal team to pull the facts together to show this.

Wrongful Death Damages

If you win your wrongful death suit, you will be awarded damages. The compensation you receive may include:

-Money for the pain and suffering of the deceased before they died
-The previous medical expenses of the deceased victim
-Funeral costs
-Loss of the deceased person’s expected income
-Loss of any inheritance caused by the deceased person’s death
-Compensation for the value that the deceased would have provided
-Loss of care, guidance, love, and companionship that the deceased would have provided

The pain of losing someone can be difficult to cope with. But if your loved one died because of someone else’s carelessness, incompetence, or a premeditated desire to murder them, then you can sue the party responsible. You will need legal representation to do so. You should call a wrongful death attorney to discuss your options.

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Betsy Flowers

Betsy Flowers

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