Wheaton Wrongful Death Lawyers
Wrongful death claims are filed against a person or entity that causes the death of someone either through intentional harm or negligence. This type of claim allows survivors, and/or the estate of the deceased person to bring a lawsuit against the entity who is considered legally liable for the death.
Usually, the lawsuit is filed by a representative for the surviving family members and any other parties affected by the loss.
What Makes a Wrongful Death Applicable for a Claim?
When a victim, who would most likely have a personal injury claim, is killed because of either an intentional harmful act or negligence by the accused entity. A variety of situations can make this type of claim applicable. Some situations include:
• The victim is intentionally killed. For example, an accused murderer could be sued for wrongful death based on the murder of the victim being an intentional act.
• The victim dies as a result of medical malpractice. When a doctor fails to make the right diagnosis of a condition, or if there was some careless act regarding the level of care provided and death is the result, survivors of the victim can bring a wrongful death action against the doctor.
• The victim dies in a car accident where the cause of the accident was negligence. Injuries from a car accident that results in death also may qualify for a wrongful death claim.
These examples show how some personal injury claims can become wrongful death claims. One notable exception to these claims is if work injuries result in death. Usually, these types of injuries and deaths are exclusively handled through the state workers compensation system.
Legal Recourse for Proving Wrongful Death
Before an entity can be held liable in a wrongful death claim, the claim must meet burden of proof criteria. This is the same burden of proof that would apply if the victim had lived and filed a personal injury claim.
As an example, negligence has to show that the accused entity owed a duty of care to the victim and that duty was breached. Not only this, but there must be proof that breaching the duty of care was a direct and proximate cause of the victim’s death. Finally, it is because of the death that the victim’s estate is trying recover damages.
There are legal elements that must apply, which an attorney who specializes in wrongful death claims can explain and ensure your case meets the criteria.
Who Has the Right to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Typically, a wrongful death claim is brought by a representative of the deceased victim’s estate on behalf of the victim’s survivors who were in a relationship with the deceased victim. The definition of survivors vary from state to state.
However, all states recognize the victim’s spouse as being able to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased spouse. Parents of minor children may also file an action of wrongful death if their child is killed. Likewise, minors can collect damages for the death of their parents.
A distinct disagreement among states is whether parents of adult children have a right to sue on behalf of their adult children who have been victims of a wrongful death act. The same applies for adult children filing on behalf of their parents.
Questions also abound for adult siblings suing for wrongful death, as well as extended relative such as aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins can file a claim. The more distant the familial relationship, the harder it becomes to prove that you should be allowed to collect damages on a wrongful death claim.
Some states do allow a life partner or someone who can show financial dependence on the deceased to file a wrongful death claim.
Types of Compensation Survivors Can Receive for Wrongful Death Claims
Once a claim is filed, the next question is determining damages. Wrongful death claim damages are based on categories of losses to the survivor and what is possible to receive.
• Pain and suffering of the victim is considered a survival claim made in a wrongful death action.
• Medical expenses incurred from injuries to the victim prior to death.
• Funeral and burial expenses
• Loss of expected income
• Loss of inheritance
• Value of services from the victim had he or she lived
• Los of nurturing, guidance and care survivors would have received from the victim
• Loss of companionship and love
The main measure used in a wrongful death action for damages is known as pecuniary, which is financial damages. Courts interpret pecuniary injuries as everything listed above. Generally, the law requires awarded damages be fair and just due to a wrongful death claim. A damage award should also include interest that has accrued from the date of the victim’s death.
Pecuniary loss is determined by first considering the age, character and condition of the victim. Other important considerations about the deceased victim include:
• Earning capacity
• Life expectancy
• Circumstances of the victim’s survivors
Although this information seem straightforward, it can become a complicated inquiry when weighed against actual pecuniary loss. For the most part, the primary consideration when awarding damages is the circumstances of the victim at time of death.
So for example, if an adult wage earner dies, the majority of damages are a loss of income and loss of parental guidance when the victim has children. A jury may consider the last known earnings of the victim at the time of death. This includes considerations if the victim was unemployed at the time. They will also look at potential future earnings based on these figures.
Some states do not allow recovery of punitive damages for wrongful death actions. Other stats, however, do have statues that permit this type of recovery. There are states where the legal permission is not explicitly allowed or disallowed. In these states, most courts have made punitive damages permissible in wrongful death cases. Your attorney can advise you on whether this is an option for your claim.
Get Legal Advice before Filing Your Wrongful Death Claim
When a loved one dies from an injury or accident that resulted in the misconduct or negligence of another entity, including an individual or company, you may be entitled to file legal action for wrongful death against the responsible party.
Consulting a Wheaton wrongful death lawyer is your first line of protection to hold the responsible person or persons responsible and receiving the compensation you need and deserve. Contact our office today to discuss your potential case and legal rights to pursue justice.