If you are going to file a wrongful death lawsuit, there are some things to know. This guide lists 5 things to know before filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Enduring the death of a spouse, parent, child, or other loved one is among the most traumatic and devastating life events you can experience. Even if the death is expected, or even welcome as the culmination of a long and painful disease, it will take a substantial toll on those who are left behind.
Unfortunately, that experience is even more painful and difficult if the death was preventable. If there is a particular person or entity whose negligence caused or contributed to your loved one’s demise, you are entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Let’s take a closer look at this process.
1. First of All, What Is Wrongful Death?
There are two ways for wrongful death to occur. One is through negligence. For example, let’s say that an automaker installed faulty brakes on a vehicle — or that a mechanic working on that car forgot to fully tighten the lug nuts after replacing a tired. If these issues cause an accident, and someone dies in that accident, the car company or mechanic might be held liable.
The other type of wrongful death is an intentional action. Even if an individual is found guilty of murder in a criminal trial, they can still be sued for wrongful death in civil court by the decedent’s family.
2. What Is the Purpose of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to compensate the relatives of the decedent. This compensation is called “damages” and it refers to a monetary amount the defendant in such a suit must pay.
Damages for wrongful death can include:
- Hospital, funeral, and burial costs
- Loss of income
- Loss of companionship or support
- Loss of consortium
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
There are other damages that can be named in a lawsuit. Additionally, not all of the aforementioned ones are allowable in every state.
3. Who Can Bring This Lawsuit?
Generally, it is the next of kin who is eligible to file this suit. If the next of kin is a minor child, a legal guardian or custodian may file the suit on their behalf. In some states, stepparents, grandparents, or dependents can also become the plaintiff in a wrongful death case.
4. What About the Statutes of Limitations?
Depending on the state in which the suit is filed, the next of kin generally has between one and three years after the death to commence the claim. Although settling an estate is a time-consuming and emotionally draining task, it’s important not to delay the first steps of taking legal action if you wish to file a lawsuit against negligent parties.
5. Is a Wrongful Death Attorney Necessary?
For all intents and purposes, yes. This area of wrongful death law is extremely complicated and difficult to navigate, so a bereaved family member really needs an experienced lawyer on their side. The attorney can take care of all legal concerns, which frees up the family members to grieve their loss in a timely fashion and deal with the practical concerns of the estate.
If You Feel You Have a Valid Wrongful Death Claim
The very first step in pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit is to contact an attorney. They will offer a complimentary consultation, at which you can ask questions and unburden yourself of some of your anguish.
The attorney will decide whether or not to take your case; if they do take it, you will have an ally on your side throughout the entire process.
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