Losing a loved one is always a tragedy, and it’s even more painful when you know that death could have been prevented. Whether your loved one died as a result of medical malpractice, a negligent car accident, an unsafe workplace, or as a result of some other form of negligence, you should know that it’s possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit and receive compensation for their untimely passing.
Unfortunately, wrongful death lawsuits are rarely talked about and poorly understood by the general public. In this article, we’ll explain exactly how wrongful death lawsuits work, and some of the most common elements that people don’t understand about them.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a specific claim against a person or organization who acted negligently in a way that resulted in a person’s death. Many actions (and in some cases, instances of lack of action) can qualify as resulting in a wrongful death.
For example, an employer maintaining unsafe conditions, a driver operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and a doctor failing to diagnose a condition accurately can all eventually be held liable for a wrongful death.
Wrongful death lawyers are responsible for handling wrongful death lawsuits. These lawyers are experienced in this field, and are capable of preparing information, negotiating compensation, and arguing your case in court. They’ll help you with every step of the process, from initial preparation to final resolution.
Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Wrongful Death Lawsuits
These are some of the most important facts you probably didn’t know about wrongful death lawsuits:
- Many people are entitled to sue for wrongful death. Who’s capable of filing a wrongful death lawsuit? Intuitively, you probably understand that a spouse, a parent, or a child can bring a case forward for the wrongful death of their close relative. But realistically, almost anyone who has close ties or financial dependence on the person who died can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The entitled parties vary by state, but the parameters are wider than you might think.
- States vary significantly. That brings us to our next point; states vary significantly. Each state dictates its own rules for how wrongful death lawsuits work and who’s responsible for bringing them forth. Accordingly, it’s hard to make general recommendations for a national audience. Talk to a lawyer to better understand the laws and regulations in your state, specifically.
- Certain parties have immunity. Some government agencies and employees, as well as some family members, may have immunity from wrongful death lawsuits. While most parties can be held directly responsible for a negligent, wrongful death, there are some exceptions that you should know about.
- Wrongful death negligence isn’t necessarily criminal. It’s tempting to think that a person responsible for negligence leading to a wrongful death is also guilty of a criminal action, but this isn’t necessarily the case. You can commit a crime that leads to a wrongful death, but you may also be innocent of crimes and still be responsible for causing a wrongful death.
- Criminal and civil cases are treated differently. By extension, it’s important to realize that criminal and civil cases are treated differently, and a person can face both a criminal case and a civil case for the actions they’ve caused. After being found guilty or not guilty of a crime in connection to the wrongful death, family members can still file a civil case against the person who caused the wrongful death. Just because a person was found not guilty criminally doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to file civil charges against them.
- Loss calculation is complex and difficult. In a wrongful death claim, various parties must attempt to calculate losses from the death, but this process can be very difficult. Your lawyer can help you calculate damages as they relate to you and your life, the opposing legal team will attempt their own calculations, and a judge may need to run some calculations of their own. Loss calculation is always complex and difficult, because you will need to consider many variables, including lost earnings, loss of consortium, and more.
- Complex wrongful death cases are hard to handle. Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex and difficult, depending on the case. Accordingly, some lawyers don’t even want to take them on – and if you have an especially complex case, it may be difficult for you to find representation.
- Expertise counts. When possible, work with a lawyer who has specific experience in this field. Expertise counts for a lot.
If you’ve recently lost a loved one or someone close to you because of someone else’s negligence, it’s a good idea to talk to a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you evaluate your case, negotiate for compensation, and if necessary, prepare for arguments in court.