Losing a loved one because of negligence or harm done by another person can be emotional and tough on those left behind. The reasons for filing a wrongful death claim can vary from seeking compensation for the loss of a loved one to making sure that others aren’t harmed or killed in the same way.
Wrongful deaths don’t take place when you’re ready for it and have a plan. Instead, they happen when you least expect them. So, what are the first steps to filing a wrongful death claim? Are you even eligible to do so? Let’s learn more about what you need to know and do for your case to start off on the right foot.
What Exactly Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone passes away because another person was negligent or acted wrongly towards them, a wrongful death claim can be made by those family members left behind. This kind of claim can be made against a person, group of people, or corporation that is believed to be responsible for the death.
Damages that can be recovered in a wrongful death claim may include:
- medical bills incurred by the person who died
- lost work wages
- pain and suffering that occurred before the victim passed away
- loss of potential financial support
- loss of companionship
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
There are all kinds of reasons that wrongful deaths occur. Some of the most common causes include:
- Birth injuries
- Occupational hazards and risks
- Vehicle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Product defects
- Abuse and neglect in assisted living or other care facilities (including daycares)
- Violent actions (stabbings, shootings, etc.)
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Suppose you’re wondering if you are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The first place to look is your state’s laws. Every state has its own laws stating who can and cannot file a wrongful death claim. Some states allow only the spouse, kids, parents, siblings, or other family members to file. Others only will enable an executor of the decedent’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Either way, confirming you can file such a lawsuit before going through the necessary expense and work should be your first step.
How Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Proven?
For a person or company to be found guilty in a wrongful death suit, the family of the person that died has the same burden of proof that the victim would have had if they were still alive. The four parts of a wrongful death lawsuit that must be proven are:
- Negligence – carelessness, recklessness, or negligence on behalf of the defendant
- Breach of Duty – the defendant owed a duty to the victim and breached that duty through negligence
- Causation – how did the negligence of the defendant cause the death of their loved one?
- Damages – quantifiable damages must be present. These damages may include medical expenses, burial costs, funeral costs, loss of income, potential earning loss, and pain and suffering that the victim endured before passing away.
An experienced attorney will help you prove all four key parts of the case in the best way possible. Neglecting to get help from a legal team can be a severe risk to your case and possible compensation.
Be Aware of the Statute of Limitation
Make sure you are aware of your state’s statute of limitations. You don’t want to miss the window you have to file a wrongful death suit. A statute of limitations is a period of time that you are able to file your lawsuit. Some states will give you 2 years, others 3 or 4 in a wrongful death suit. Educate yourself on the requirements that your state has set forth so that you aren’t caught by surprise when you’re ready to file your wrongful death claim.
What to Do First
If you’ve been able to confirm that you are eligible to file a wrongful death suit and are still within your state’s statute of limitations, you need to work on:
- Filing a complaint or petition to begin your lawsuit. This document will include all the facts and legal grounds for your case. You are simply stating why you believe the defendant is responsible for the death of your loved one and how much compensation you, as the family left behind, are seeking.
- You also need to file a summons, a document that lets the defendant know they are being sued.
- Once the lawsuit is filed, documents relevant to the case must be provided to the defendant. This is called “service of process” and makes the opposing party “officially” aware of the lawsuit.
Seek Advice from the Experts
Moving through each of these beginning steps in the process of preparing for and filing a wrongful death claim is daunting. It requires wording and necessary information that isn’t part of the everyday person’s expertise. The legal system can often be complicated to navigate on your own.
A wrongful death lawsuit has many steps to it. Don’t think it’s a fast process either. Lawsuits can go on for years. The attention and experience that is needed to navigate these waters can feel impossible to any non-lawyer working to understand it all.
This is one of the biggest reasons hiring an attorney is a must in your wrongful death claim and lawsuit. The team at Wormington & Bollinger has the education, experience, and work ethic you need to bring your case to the best possible outcome.
We know that a lawsuit is not what you want to be involved in, especially when you’re mourning the loss of your loved one. We also know that in the end, the compensation you could get can be important to your future and how you can take care of your family in the wake of your loved one’s death. If you are interested in learning more about wrongful death claims and how the attorneys at Wormington & Bollinger can support you and your case, contact us today.