If you are considering a wrongful death lawsuit, you probably have many questions about how the process works and what is involved. While nothing will bring your loved one back, a wrongful death lawsuit can help ease any financial burden their loss may have caused. It may also bring some much-needed closure to this chapter of your life.
What Qualifies as a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit that is brought against a person, multiple people, or a company that is responsible for the death of another. The death could be the result of a deliberate act or due to negligence. Murder, spousal abuse, and car accidents all potentially lend themselves to a wrongful death lawsuit. One notable exception, however, is when the death or the injury that eventually led to death occurred at the victim's place of work. While the death may be due to company negligence, it may fall under worker's compensation laws rather than wrongful death.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
This type of lawsuit is usually filed by an immediate family member or on behalf of the victim's estate. Depending on which state the victim lived in at the time of his or her death, the rules around which family member can file vary slightly. Most states allow a spouse to file a wrongful death lawsuit as well as the victim's children. If the victim was unmarried, the parents may sue.
If the victim was not married, had no children, and his or her parents were deceased, the siblings may file a lawsuit. Check with a local wrongful death attorney for details on the rules in your state.
How Much Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?
While no one can put a price on human life, a wrongful death lawsuit, for better or for worse, attempts to do just that. That said, every case is different. No two wrongful death settlements are the same.
What Expenses Can a Family Sue for in a Wrongful Death Case?
A family can sue for medical bills, funeral expenses, and other final expenses that they incurred. Although nothing will bring their loved one back, they should not be expected to pay for these expenses.
Additionally, many spouses need to be compensated for the deceased's lost wages in order to continue on with their lives. This applies not only when the victim was the main wage earner in the family but also when the victim was a stay-at-home parent. The value of their time to do household tasks like cooking, cleaning, and childcare is calculated by what it would cost to pay someone else to do those activities.
Furthermore, family members can sue for their own pain and suffering, often called intangible losses. These include loss of companionship, loss of affection, loss of emotional support, loss of moral support, loss of guidance and even loss of sexual relations. The court must determine what price can be placed on these intangibles to make the family whole again.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Like most legal matters, there is a statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits. While the statute of limitations varies from state to state, most states have laws in place that limit the time frame in which a victim's family can file a wrongful death lawsuit. They generally range from one to five years from the date of the victim's death.
While nothing can take away the pain of losing a loved one in a tragic manner, a wrongful death lawsuit can ease the financial burden that the death created. It can also attempt to help the family members find closure and move to the next chapter of their lives.
For more information, contact a wrongful death lawyer.