Legal cases are often riddled with emotion, especially those that are associated with the tragic death of a close family member. But emotion is not sufficient grounds for winning a case against the party or parties who may have had some level of responsibility for the loss you and your loved ones have suffered - nor should it be.
Wrongful death suits serve as the legal means to prove an appropriate level of liability for the loss that the plaintiff has suffered. But proving a wrongful death case is not easy. This is especially true in situations where the evidence is difficult to amass.
If you or your loved ones have experienced a loss that may warrant the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit, this information can help you give you more insight into the requirements and decide whether filing this type of legal action is an appropriate decision for your situation.
Deciding when wrongful death is truly applicable
Wrongful death litigation can be filed in cases where someone has been intentionally killed by someone else, but it is not reserved for this use. Instead, filing a wrongful death case can also be an applicable option when a death can be proven to be caused by less direct causes, such as medical malpractice, workplace negligence, and careless or negligent behavior, such as operating a commercial or private vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
But even when the cause of death seems to check all the boxes required for filing a wrongful death case, plaintiffs must still bear the burden of proving their case and amass evidence that will clearly support their claim. This evidence must clearly show that the defendant in the case was in a position to owe the victim a duty of care.
For example, in a wrongful death case filed due to a death in a traffic crash, a driver under the influence is clearly not providing the appropriate duty of care to any passengers they allow to ride along in their car. In the same manner, a business owner who does nothing to correct workplace hazards is not fulfilling their duty of care for their employees, customers, or clients.
It is important to note that wrongful death case filings do fall under statutes of limitations, so expediency is important.
Determining damages in a wrongful death claim
Not everyone can legally file a wrongful death case. Depending on the state in which the death occurred and the claim that will be filed, plaintiff relationships are usually limited to spousal, parental, or guardian relationships. Other family members or individuals for whom the victim was providing support may also be able to file this legal action.
Family members whose connection to the victim is more distant, such as siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins, cannot typically file a wrongful death case in most states, although it may be possible in certain circumstances.
The determination of wrongful death damages, including the amount, can be a complicated issue. In most cases, wrongful death damages typically include costs incurred or caused by the death, such as funeral and burial expenses.
In addition, financial losses, both past and future, can also be used to help determine wrongful death damages. Some common examples of past and future financial losses include the following:
- loss of expected future income the victim would have earned
- medical expenses that may have been incurred immediately prior to the victim's death
- loss of any inheritance income that the victim's surviving family expected to receive prior to their death
If you have additional questions about wrongful death cases and the processes involved in filing the legal action or amassing the proper evidence necessary to support it, discussing your situation with an attorney can provide the information you need.
To learn more, contact a lawyer who offers wrongful death attorney services.