Wrongful death is death caused by the negligence of others. These could include death in accidents due to distracted or drunken driving or negligence of the driver, death caused by the negligence of a doctor, hospitals or nursing homes, death caused by using defective products and death caused by any other means where the negligence of the one causing the fatality can be attributed to.
Typically, wrongful death comes under personal injury law whereby the victim’s family can claim for the reimbursement of costs incurred on medical treatment and funeral besides other costs. Further, the victim’s family can also claim damages in the form of financial award for the pain and suffering the victim’s family undergoes in addition to the opportunity loss due to the absence of the victim, according to attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld, who specializes in the area.
There are some things you need to know about wrongful death and given below are 4 such things.
1. Who can claim?
In general, wrongful death claims can be made by only the close family members of the victim such as spouse, children or parents. The legal representative of the victim’s estate can also file a claim on behalf of the victim. The claim can be made jointly or singly.
Each state has its own statute and hence could be different from one another. For instance, some states may permit the following class of people to make a claim
· Unmarried life partners and putative spouses
· Distant family members
· Persons dependent financially on the victim
· Parents losing a fetus
Thus, each state determines the nature of the people making a case out of wrongful death.
2. On whom the claim can be made?
Wrongful death claims can be made against a host of entities involved in the death of a victim. In addition to the main person whose negligence caused the death, other entities can be made parties to the lawsuit. For instance, in a wrongful death case in a truck accident, the others that can be sued apart from the driver could include the truck owner, owner of freight, employer of driver, manufacturer of the truck, person or entity responsible for the maintenance of the truck and anybody else who is involved in the accident.
Similarly, if a wrongful death occurs in a lift then the lift operator, lift manufacturer, person or entity responsible for the maintenance of the lift and the owner of the property where the lift was operating can be made liable.
3. What damages can be claimed?
In a wrongful death case, damages can be classified into two types depending on the time period of occurrence. In the first type, damages can be claimed from the time the accident takes place until the time of death. This could include costs involved in treating the victim until death; the victim’s lost wages, and mental and physical pain and suffering. In the second type, the legal claimants (survivors of the dead victim) can claim after the victim’s death (which happened because of the accident). Here, in addition to the costs incurred they can claim funeral and burial expenses and future wages lost on account of the untimely death.
Further, in some states, legal survivors can claim damages for ‘loss of consortium.’ This is nothing but the deceased victim’s love and companionship lost to the survivors. The loss is compensated in the form of financial damages.
4. Should claim go to trial?
According to various estimates, about 90% of wrongful death claims are settled before trial. This is quite understandable as a trial is a tedious process for the survivors. As it is, the survivors have suffered a sad loss of their loved one and a trial will only add to their misery. Thus, it is prudent to try and settle the wrongful death claim quickly. A good attorney can help the survivors and guide them through the process. If your case is strong and the culpability of the perpetrator is well established, a good attorney can negotiate a substantial compensation without the case going to trial.
Though wrongful death claims cannot bring back the loved one, financial compensation is a reasonably good substitute. This is all the more important for a surviving spouse with minor children in tow when the family loses an earning member due to wrongful death depriving the spouse and children of the love and companionship of the deceased victim.