A sudden death can bring about particular feelings and issues. Along with the shock and disbelief, you may be experiencing anger, vulnerability, and immense sorrow. You may cycle through the five stages of grief, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If you believe someone caused your loved one’s death, you may be unable to start healing until that person is held accountable.
If you believe someone is directly or indirectly responsible for a family member’s death, it’s important to consult a lawyer. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to pursue a special type of personal injury claim. A wrongful death lawyer from Thomas Law Offices can help you determine what is best for your family and your future.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims are brought on behalf of the deceased against the person or entity responsible for the death. While state laws vary, there are some general facts you’ll want to be aware of if you are considering pursuing this type of case.
A wrongful death claim is available to surviving family members if the victim would have had a valid personal injury claim if they had survived the accident or incident. Situations that may warrant such a claim include when a victim is intentionally killed, when a victim dies as a result of malpractice, and when an accident involves any form of negligence.
To prove a wrongful death occurred, the claim needs to meet the same burden of proof that the decedent would have had to meet if they had lived. So, for example, in a situation involving negligence, the person or representative filing the claim would need to prove the allegedly at-fault party owed the deceased a duty of care, that duty was breached, injuries were sustained, and those injuries were ultimately fatal.
Types of Wrongful Death Claims
If you choose to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of your loved one, the basis of your claim will have to do with the accident they were involved in. Some of the most common wrongful death claims we see are based on the following:
- Automotive Accidents. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in the United States. However, just because something was an accident does not mean the negligent person responsible for the incident cannot be held liable. If your loved one died in an automotive crash, you can pursue a claim. The same is true if they were involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer or motorcycle.
- Medical Malpractice. When someone seeks medical attention from a hospital or other facility, they expect the doctor and care team to provide them with the care they need to get better. When someone makes a mistake and costs a patient their life, the surviving family members have legal options.
- Construction Accidents. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous fields to work in. If you lost a loved one to a construction site accident, you may be able to hold the company or site owner accountable.
- Slip and Falls. While anyone is at risk of slipping and falling, certain individuals are more likely to sustain fatal injuries. For example, individuals over the age of 65 are more likely to sustain a head or spinal cord injury when falling. When a fall happens on someone else’s property, you may be able to hold the property owner responsible.
- Dangerous Products. When a product doesn’t work like you expect it to, you can likely return it for a refund or replacement. But what happens when a product is defective and so dangerous that it results in someone’s death? When that happens, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death case against the manufacturer.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
As mentioned, each state has its own laws on how it handles wrongful death claims. Your attorney will advise you on the specific laws for your state, but in general, designated beneficiaries have the right to pursue a claim that can be brought by a court-appointed representative. Examples include immediate family members like spouses, children, adopted children, and parents of unmarried children, distant family members like siblings and grandparents, domestic or life partners, and financial dependents.
In other situations, it’s possible the claim could only be brought forward by the decedent’s estate, which would compensate it for the incurred losses. A personal representative, sometimes referred to as an executor, often brings this type of claim forward under their own name. Any recovery from the at-fault party would be subject to a special trust so it could be properly dispersed to any beneficiaries.
Recovering Damages in a Wrongful Death Suit
In a wrongful death case, it can be challenging to determine a fair valuation, so it’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney. In many situations, damages fall into two categories, defined by two different time periods.
The first time period covers the moment the accident happened up until the victim’s death. This time period could be hours, days, weeks, or longer, depending on the sustained injuries. From this period, a claimant could look to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering of the decedent, and funeral and burial expenses.
The second category of damages is supposed to cover the losses experienced by the next of kin after their loved one’s passing. They can pursue compensation for lost financial support, including benefits and expected raises, up until the deceased’s anticipated retirement. In some situations, family members can also seek compensation for their own noneconomic losses, like loss of consortium for spouses and loss of guidance for children.
We understand that no amount of money will bring your loved one back. We also understand how challenging it can be to think about finances when dealing with raw grief. However, the compensation you could receive could protect your family’s future and ensure you have what you need to support yourselves.
The Benefits of Working With a Wrongful Death Attorney
While you may have the legal right to pursue an untimely death claim on your own, the laws that govern those types of claims are extremely complex. As such, it’s in your best interest to work with an experienced attorney who can explain your legal rights and options to you and ensure justice is served on behalf of your loved one.
When you work with an attorney, they can navigate all aspects of the claim, including understanding and explaining legal context, negotiating on your behalf, and seeking maximum damages for your family. Thomas Law Offices will not only be able to ensure nothing happens to jeopardize your claim, but we will also know how to achieve the highest possible amount of compensation for you.
Thomas Law Offices Is Here for You
The unexpected loss of a loved one can be crippling to deal with. If you believe your loved one’s death could have been prevented and only happened because of the negligence of someone else, our wrongful death lawyers are here to provide you with the legal representation your family needs.
We understand how challenging it can be to move forward after the passing of a loved one. The world keeps turning even when you want it to stop. When you work with a lawyer, you’ll have the opportunity to slow down and spend time with your family while they work on getting your family the compensation it needs to pull through.
The sooner you contact us after your loved one’s passing, the better your chances will be of holding the at-fault party accountable. To learn more, contact us today.