A wrongful death lawsuit attempts the impossible: to compensate you for the untimely loss of a loved one. Their sudden loss can be crippling for families financially, emotionally, spiritually, and developmentally. The unfortunate truth is that we can never put a price on what was lost. Knowing how they work can help you make the most of yours so that at the very least, your finances can better weather the loss.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits are civil suits, and as such, they don’t attempt to secure a criminal conviction. Their purpose is to obtain compensation for the survivors of the deceased. The specifics of what a wrongful death lawsuit entails varies from state to state, but the basics are the same across all.
What Kinds of Damages are Covered in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A person’s absence from your life is impossible to quantify. However, some types of damages are commonly pursued in a wrongful death lawsuit, including the following:
- Funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- Costs of the deceased’s medical bills
- Compensation for the deceased’s pain and suffering
- Loss of income, services, and inheritance by survivors
- Loss of love, companionship, guidance, and consortium from the deceased
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The law varies by state as to who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, so it’s wise to consult with a preventable death lawyer who can guide you through the process. They can inform you of your eligibility to pursue a lawsuit and argue it on your behalf to help you secure the maximum compensation.
How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Unfolds
Despite differences across states, wrongful death lawsuits follow these broad steps.
The Responsible Party is Identified
Your lawsuit should identify the party responsible for the wrongful death in question. Most wrongful death cases assert negligence by the responsible party and are typically filed after a death caused by one of the following:
- Auto accident
- Defective product
- Criminal activity
- Medication or chemicals
The Case is Filed
The following people may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit depending on the state:
- Spouses/ Putative spouses
- Surviving children
- Parents or siblings
- Financial dependents
The Investigation is Conducted
The investigation for a wrongful death lawsuit follows much the same pattern as it would for a criminal case. Indeed, many wrongful death lawsuits are pursued deaths that are also subject to criminal lawsuits. Police reports, witness statements, the victim’s medical history, and evidence from the scene, such as photos of a collision, are examined.
In general, wrongful death lawsuits make the same allegations found in criminal cases but require a lower standard of proof. They often try to establish that the death was caused by the negligence of the accused, who had a duty of care they violated.
Compensation is Demanded
The next stage of a wrongful death lawsuit is to demand compensation for the loss of your loved one. You might seek to recover lost wages, the value of household services, and compensation for the loss of your loved one’s love and companionship. The defendant and their insurer may opt to settle rather than take the case to a trial. However, in cases where a substantial amount of compensation is demanded, it’s unlikely that an insurance company will settle and the case will likely go to trial.
In wrongful death lawsuits that move to a jury trial, where both sides argue their cases and present their evidence. If you are not satisfied with the jury’s verdict, you may be able to appeal, but the cost to do so is rarely worth it for a civil suit of this type.
If someone you know or love has suffered from wrongful death, then it’s vital to seek out a lawyer who is experienced in handling wrongful death lawsuits. Your loved one can never be replaced, but you may receive compensation for the loss that has been inflicted on you.