Do you know anyone who has been hit by a reckless driver or a careless motorist, shot dead due to mistaken identity, killed due to medical malpractice, etc.? These are examples of wrongful death cases. Generally, these cases are caused by another person ’s negligence, carelessness, malpractice or inaction. Even though the death is unintentional, it is still the responsibility of the defendant to provide just compensation for the survivors or victims of wrongful death cases.

Wrongful death is a civil action rather than a criminal action. Since the person killed (decedent) cannot file suit or collect damages, it is the family or representatives of the estate that do so. The intent is to compensate family members who have suffered monetarily and emotionally from the death. Damages can be assessed for lost wages and benefits, loss of companionship, and emotional pain and suffering caused by the trauma.
A defendant can only be held responsible for a wrongful death if it can be proved that the defendant ’s conduct was the cause of the death. It must be proved that the death would not have occurred without the defendant’s act. The time between the defendant’s action and the death of the decedent is not a factor as long as it can be proved that the defendant’s action was the cause of death.

If it can be shown that the decedent was partially responsible for his death, then he may be found to have comparative or contributory negligence and dependent upon the state in which the incident occurred, damages may be awarded based on the percentage of negligence imputed to the decedent. Also, if the decedent failed to seek appropriate medical care and that failure led to his death, there may be no grounds for a wrongful death claim or a reduction to an award.

Different states have different methods for deciding who may file a wrongful death suit and who may recover damages. Generally, it must be shown that the death was caused by another’s wrongful act; that the act was such that the decedent would have been due damages from the act; and that monetary damage did arise from the act. If these three criteria are met, it is possible that a wrongful death claim can be filed.
In a case of wrongful death, damages are assessed to compensate family members for their loss. There are many ways in which damages can be calculated. Since damages can be awarded in a number of areas, it is important to examine each one carefully.

The most obvious loss in a case of wrongful death is the actual expense occasioned by medical and death expenses. These are usually easy to determine.
Less obvious but equally important is the loss of future earnings and benefits, as well as the loss of companionship. These damages are more difficult to calculate and include anticipating the lifespan and earnings of the decedent, as well as the relationship to remaining family members.
Loss of companionship is very difficult to calculate since it is totally subjective and does not lend itself to empirical measurements. It is a measure of the emotional pain and suffering experienced by the survivors.

A final area of damages is punitive damages. This is an amount awarded to punish the person who caused the death, rather than to compensate for a specific loss. It can typically only be awarded when the action of the defendant was intentional or grossly negligent.
At Taylor King & Associates, P.A., we have helped thousands of people recover their damages from wrongful death accidents. We are honest lawyers helping honest people.

Wrongful death may be defined as loss of life caused wrongfully by another person. The reasons could be several, such as intentional attack, negligence, carelessness, recklessness, murder, manslaughter or by other means. The plaintiff, usually the spouse or close family member of the deceased, files a wrongful death lawsuit which is a civil action, unlike murder or homicide which are criminal charges. Some common examples (by no means exhaustive) of wrongful death are drunk driving, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, car accidents, construction site accidents, plane crashes, medical malpractice, defective product liability, and fires.


Aspects to Prove
In order to prove and succeed in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff has to prove to the court that:

  • The death was caused because of actions, either whole or in part, by the defendant.
  • The death was caused because of negligence or otherwise, on the part of the defendant
  • That the deceased has left a spouse or other close family members who will collect the damages
  • That the death caused actual monetary damages which might be loss of future earnings, loss of inheritance, loss of benefits, pain and suffering, and also punitive damages.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a difficult legal case which should be handled by a wrongful death attorney who has the necessary expertise in this specific area. An attorney will first demand compensation from the defendant. This is to try and resolve the issue without having to go to court. Only if this approach fails will the attorney file a claim to the court. Another alternative to avoid a wrongful death lawsuit is through arbitration. In arbitration, a mutually acceptable arbitrator or board of arbitrators will review the facts of the case and arrive at a decision as to who is at fault, and what is a fair award. The decision of arbitration is absolute and binding to both parties.

A wrongful death lawsuit is a claim for monetary compensation filed by a wrongful death attorney on behalf of the successors to the victim. A wrongful death claim is of comparatively recent origin because “common law”, the general principles of English law passed on to the United States, had no such provision. Common law did not recognize a wrongful death claim on grounds that a claim dies with a victim since there was no possible means to compensate the victim for damages. There was no provision for surviving members to claim any form of compensation till federal and state courts created the enactment, in the United States, sometime in the last century.

Many people thought this was right because common law did not extend far enough. In this regard, common law’s teeth were not sharp enough and for this reason, it had to be amended. A wrongful death claim generally has four parts to it which have to be proved:

  1. That the conduct of the defendant was responsible in whole or part for the death

  2. That the defendant was strictly liable and negligent due to which the victim died

  3. That the victim has left behind a surviving spouse and children, dependents, and/or beneficiaries

  4. The victim’s death has resulted in monetary damages

A Clear Picture

A wrongful death lawsuit might be filed by a number of persons associated with the victim by blood, relationship, and association. These include immediate family members such as the wife and children, financial dependents, life partners, putative spouses, distant family members like siblings and grandparents, and any other person or persons, even though unrelated by blood or marriage to the victim, who suffer financially. You should see the picture more clearly now on why common law did not go far enough and that to leave it so without making a change would not be ethically sound or consistent.


A Statewide Difference

Certain states recognize the right of parents of a deceased fetus to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In other states, this law does not apply but parents can bring a wrongful death action if the child was born alive and then died. If you need to know which law applies to your state, check with a wrongful death lawyer.

A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed when a victim dies because of negligence or any other kind of unjust action by a person or entity. An entity could be a company, an organization, or a hospital to name but a few. For example, wrongful death could be caused by product failure. Take a hypothetical case of brake failure because of a design defect which results in death of a person or persons. In such a case, the car manufacturer would be considered the responsible entity and liable to be sued for wrongful death.

The Same Theme

In wrongful death cases, the victim’s successors are entitled to monetary compensation because of negligent and improper conduct on the part of the defendant.

Laws do Not Always have to be Written Down

The right to bring an action for wrongful death is relatively new in the U.S., as “common law”, which was British law on which the American legal system is based, had no such provision. The right to bring a wrongful death action was created by federal and state courts in the 20th century. Every American state today has its own wrongful death law. 

No One is Exempt

Wrongful death is widely encompassing. It covers all kinds of fatal accidents ranging from vehicle accidents to product liability cases and complex medical malpractice issues. Under this law, anyone can be held responsible who has acted negligently and failed to act in a reasonable manner, so causing the death of another. Anyone could be individuals, companies, and even governmental agencies.

An Example

A wrongful death claim is usually filed by a wrongful death attorney representing the successors to the victim. The defendants could be a single person or entity or be many people and organizations. For example, a car accident which involves a drunk driver and a faulty roadway; the people who could be held responsible and sued for the wrongful death are:

  • The driver of the vehicle

  • The builder or designer of the faulty roadway

  • The government agency which did not provide enough warnings about the hazard ahead

  • The establishment which sold liquor to the drunk driver

  • The person who owns the premises where the liquor was consumed.

About Wrongful Death

When a person has died because of another person or party’s wrongful actions or negligence, the executor of the deceased person’s estate can file a lawsuit for wrongful death. When compensation is awarded only the designated “distributes” or the nominated heirs can benefit. If you have recently been bereaved because of someone’s negligence or wrongdoing, this information will and can help you obtain legal recourse.

The Normal Process

A wrongful death lawsuit is governed by a statute of limitations which prevails in all states. While the statute varies from one state to the next, in general it ranges between one to three years from the death of the victim. In the state of Arkansas, the statute of limitations is one year. If you believe you have a just case for wrongful death then the sooner you contact a wrongful death attorney the better. You’ll be advised of your rights, the procedures to be followed, the claim you can raise, and a just settlement if it comes to that. Wrongful death lawsuits are generally handled by a serious injury lawyer.

The Strength of Your Word

Bear in mind that your attorney has a lot of homework to do before being in a position to file a lawsuit. He/she has to gather all the evidence and prepare the appropriate paperwork before submitting it in court. All this has to be done within pendency of the statute of limitations. This is also strongly correlated with your story, the truth, and many details you can conjure up and remember. The first person who will hear your testimony is your lawyer in a safe and secure office somewhere. Of course most likely your friends and family will hear your story as well, perhaps even before you ever meet your attorney.

A Tough Situation

Wrongful death could be caused because of a number of reasons ranging from medical malpractice to a truck accident. The essence of the case rests with proving that death was caused because of someone’s negligence or wrongdoing. Your attorney will inform you if your case qualifies as a wrongful death.

The Settlement Process

A court award or settlement in a wrongful death case goes to the deceased’s estate first then transferred to others according to the terms of the will. Compensation can be claimed on a number of grounds which include medical bills, mental distress, and emotional pain. Your attorney will be able to advise you further. 

 

If you have lost a loved one because of wrongful death and are contemplating filing a lawsuit you need to retain an experienced wrongful death attorney or personal injury lawyer. The lawyer you hire must have a thorough understanding of the laws and legal procedures of the state in which you are planning to file the lawsuit. Only then will you be awarded the compensation you need for your family. A wrongful death lawsuit is a painful and difficult issue. Monetary compensation cannot replace a loved one but it is necessary to pay for the family’s basic expenses and needs.

What is a wrongful death?

A wrongful death arises when a loved one has died because of the wrongdoing or negligence of another person or entity. In this situation the family of the deceased is legally eligible to be compensated for their loss. A wrongful death claim has to demonstrate that the death was caused because of negligent conduct, and that the family members of the deceased are financially affected and deprived. When assessing losses, the court will take into consideration certain imponderables such as emotional pain and distress involved. A skilled personal injury attorney will know how to validate and prove a wrongful death claim based on the years of experience in fighting such cases. In many instances the case may not go to trial if a mutually acceptable settlement can be negotiated.

What are the causes of a wrongful death?
Wrongful death cases arise for a number of reasons including:

Automobile accidents

Truck accidents

Motorcycle accidents

Plane crashes

Boat accidents

Physician/Hospital negligence

Defective products

What compensation could one expect?

Compensation awarded depends on the facts of the case. As a general rule, these could include the following:
Funeral related expenses

Cost of burial

Anticipated future earnings of the deceased

Pain and anguish

Some Perspectives to Ponder

There is not any guarantee that a victory will result. Even if you do win, you may not reap the awards you were expecting or hoping for. You may not even receive the money that you need. But it is better than nothing. Most likely you will come out ahead but if there are scars or permanent health issues, the financial award will not soften or rectify this alarming & ongoing fact. But that does not mean you should not fight the good fight and perhaps bring some change to the system, an area, or enlighten someone. 

A wrongful death claim is brought about by surviving dependents and beneficiaries of a deceased victim. This cause of action arises from the death of the victim. The grounds for claim are that the victim died due to negligence, willful wrongdoing, or other liability of the defendant’s conduct. As a result of the defendant’s wrongdoing, the surviving beneficiaries and dependents are entitled to compensation by way of monetary damages.

 

Hard Cases

 

Every state in the country has in place wrongful death statutes which are unique to its jurisdiction. In most states for a wrongful death attorney representing the heirs to succeed in such a lawsuit, the following will have to be proven:

 

That negligence or wrongful conduct by another was the cause of death

The justification for the amount of damages claimed by the heir’s

 

In some states the following order of precedence of legal heirs applies:

 

Heading the list are the surviving spouse and children of the deceased as well as any surviving issue of a deceased child of the decedent. These survivors have a right to make a claim ‘jointly or severally’. This means the single claim for damages is shared.

Parents, siblings, children of deceased siblings, grandparents and their descendants follow next in that order.

Last in line are any minors who resided with the decedent and who were supported to the extent of 50% while the victim was alive. The minor should have been part of the victim’s household or resident there for at least 180 days preceding the victim’s death.

 

Wrongful death lawsuits can be difficult at times because the defendants put up a vigorous defense proving a) their innocence of the charges and b) that the victim was also negligent and wholly or at least partly to blame for the death. The defendant in many cases comes forward for an out-of-court settlement to avoid a trial.

A wrongful death lawsuit is generally a case brought against an entity or a person who has caused the death of another human being because of a wrongful act or negligence. Wrongful death claims are generally filed by the surviving spouse of the deceased, his/her surviving children or other people who benefit from the estate of the deceased. But there are certain exceptional situations where others can also bring wrongful death actions. These circumstances can be identified by a wrongful death attorney. Proving the defendant wrong in such a suit is an uphill task, more so when the plaintiff raises an action because of medical malpractice.

What happened?

Take an actual case of the way the odds are stacked in favor of the medical profession. A California resident had a relatively minor motorcycle accident and was treated at a hospital for broken ribs. Surprisingly after five days the patient died.

Apathetic Doctoring

The cause was later identified as ‘ileus’, a reasonably common condition where the gastrointestinal tract of the patient had shut down. This was something the attending doctor had failed to identify because of negligent monitoring. Because of ‘ileus’, fluid accumulated in the patient’s abdomen causing it to swell and become distended.

A Massive Mistake

The doctor stated that throughout the patient’s stay in hospital he had physically examined him, pressed on the abdominal area and found nothing adverse to suggest such a problem. The widow however claimed the doctor had never palpated her husband’s abdomen.

At the trial an expert testified that the patient’s life could have been saved through a simple procedure of using a nasogastric tube to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure.

The doctor conceded that the case should be settled but his insurance company refused.

The Big Picture

The case went to trial when the jury awarded the widow nearly $7.5 million for lost earnings and emotional damage. However $6 million of the award toward emotional damage was reduced to $250,000 by the judge because of a ‘cap’ for non-economic damages for medical malpractice cases under a salient California law. In this case though the money was well-deserved but there has been a plenitude of times in America where someone deserved compensation and they receive a ridiculous amount that is irrational.

In this case, the doctor should have lost their license and this amount was accurate and should have been delivered.