September 3, 2020

How a wrongful death case can help families financially

Having to deal with the loss of a loved one is never easy. As family members and other loved ones go through a range of emotions as they grieve. In the cases where families are not just having to cope with the reality that their loved one is no longer with them, but their new reality is due to the negligence of another person, their experience is often one filled with anger and despair. Depending on the cause of death and whether it was witnessed by a family member or a loved one, the ramifications related to a death can affect them for years sometimes decades after death.

Far beyond the psychological trauma family members have to live with following the unexpected death of a loved one is the financial burden they are confronted with. It is important for people to understand if they are in a situation where their loved one has died due to the carelessness or indifference of another human being, they have rights, and those rights need to be pursued to protect them from future financial despair. Family members are often caught off guard when they lose the main wage earner or sole supporter of the family, however losing a family member should not mean that a family that has just been thrust into a situation they never imagined possible has to lose their sense of financial stability.

Types of Wrongful Death Claims

Wrongful death claims can be filed against individuals or entities. Some examples of the types of wrongful death claims include but are not limited to medical malpractice, medical device failures, automobile accidents, negligent security, and nursing home abuse. The settlement or award given to families can help them recover from the burden of medical expenses, mortgage responsibilities, and other financial obligations.

Bring Your A Game

It is important for people to recognize what is at stake if they are contemplating filing a wrongful death claim. To be clear, if a family is planning to sue an entity like a hospital, trucking company, or an employer on the basis of wrongful death, they need to understand that the party they are suing is going to come to the table with everything they have. To be clear, the defendants in wrongful death cases are going to offer their condolences, but plaintiffs have to reconcile with the fact that the powers to be within the company or the organization that they are dealing with are not their friends, and they will do everything in the power under the premise of the law to avoid paying any damages to surviving members of the deceased.

Wrongful death claims against individuals are a little different because the average person does not have a team of lawyers on retainer who are ready to do battle for them, companies and other organizations do. For people who plan to pursue a wrongful death claim, it is important to secure the services of an attorney who has experience litigating wrongful death lawsuits. An attorney serves a buffer between families and aggressive and overzealous legal representatives of companies. The other reason a family needs to hire an attorney for cases like these is that they need someone on their side especially when everything is on the line. A good attorney who represents a family in a wrongful death case will do everything in their power to make sure the victim’s family receives everything they are entitled and can help save a family from financial ruin. 

Elements of a Case

Wrongful death lawsuits consist of four primary elements. These elements must be proven in a court of law to prove to hold a defendant accountable and liable for a death. The first element is a breach of a lawful duty. For example, a person could have failed to stop at a stop sign and cause an accident which resulted in the death of another person. That person could be proven to have neglected their duty to follow the traffic laws. The decedent’s family must also be able to prove that the plaintiff breached their duty to uphold the law. Along with providing proof that there was a breach of duty, a family also has the burden of proving causation, which is proof of how the defendant’s breach of duty caused the death of their loved one.

There are a number of losses to consider when a wrongful death case is weighed. For instance the medical expenses and burial expenses related to the services that had to be provided to the deceased in an effort to either try to save their life or take care of their remains after they passed on is customary. Any fees paid to attorneys are also recoverable in wrongful death cases. There are several other losses that are often included in wrongful death claims that the average person might not be aware that they are entitled to.

If the deceased has minor children, a loss of parental guidance is something that can be included in a wrongful death claim. Grief is a difficult thing, and although children are often thought of as resilient, the truth is, no one can really say how the unexpected death of a parent is going to affect them over time. It can be argued that the decisions minor children will make in the future, and the opportunities they could miss out on could be a result of them not having the parent they lost there to guide them.

In cases where a person has lost a life partner, the courts can award compensation because the surviving party has lost someone who was a major part of their life. They can claim a loss of affection, love, and care. Courts account for the fact that the loss of the deceased is someone that can never be replaced, and this void will affect the surviving party for the remainder of their life.

Settlements and Awards

There are a number of states who have limits on the amount of recovery a family can receive. Generally, judges and juries make the determination regarding the amount of compensation a victim’s family receives. There are situations where an attorney representing a victim’s family is able to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company directly. There is a statute of limitations on wrongful death cases, and that statute of limitations varies by state, which is why it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.

About the author 

Peter Hatch

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