The moment you’re told you’ve unexpectedly lost a loved one, your whole life changes. Suppose you discover someone else’s negligence contributed to their passing. In that case, it’s important to understand your legal options and how pursuing a claim could hold them accountable and ensure your family’s financial security. A Bowling Green, KY wrongful death lawyer is ready to stand by your side.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when somebody loses their life because of another person’s negligence or misconduct. When a claim is filed, it’s separate and distinct from any criminal charges. While many situations could result in a wrongful death, some of the most common we see include:
- Auto Accidents. Drivers owe a duty of care to each other to abide by the rules of the road and obey traffic signs. When a driver is speeding, distracted, or under the influence of a substance, they could cause a fatal accident.
- Slip and Falls. When someone slips and falls, whether they’re in an unmaintained parking lot in the wintertime or they trip on torn carpet coming down someone’s stairs, it’s possible they could hit their head. Severe traumatic brain injuries can result in death.
- Nursing Home Abuse. Senior citizens, especially those in long-term care facilities, are one of the most vulnerable populations. When abuse occurs in facilities, residents may not receive the care they need and succumb to injuries or neglect.
- Medical Malpractice. Physicians are tasked with the job of caring for people. When a negligent doctor makes a mistake in surgery or prescribes the wrong medication, a patient could die.
- Dangerous Products. When manufacturers release defective products or fail to provide the proper warnings, a consumer could sustain a fatal injury.
Even if you don’t see your loved one’s accident mentioned above, still consider reaching out to Thomas Law Offices. Many situations could warrant a claim. We can determine if taking legal action is right for you and your family during this difficult time.
Wrongful Death Laws in Kentucky
Wrongful death falls under civil litigation, and the laws that apply to it are established at the state level. The definition of wrongful death is similar in most states. Kentucky’s statute 411.130 states “whenever the death of a person results from an injury inflicted by the negligence or wrongful act of another, damages may be recovered for the death from the person who caused it.”
It’s important to note that not all family members are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Actions may only be filed by a court-appointed representative of the deceased person’s estate. The court appoints this representative to act as an executor or administrator of the estate. It is usually a spouse or adult child.
Lawsuits are also under time restraints. Surviving family members only have up to one year from the date of the death to take legal action. Suits filed after that period have very little chance of resulting in financial recovery. A year may seem like a lot of time, but investigations often move slowly, and the lawsuit filing process is lengthy and complicated. The sooner you get started, the better.
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim
For a defendant to be found guilty in a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff needs to prove the decedent would have been able to take action through an injury claim if they had survived their injuries. By law, there are four elements needed to prove wrongful death.
Most personal injury claims are based on negligence. Negligence refers to careless or reckless actions on behalf of the defendant. For example, running a stop sign or failing to put down a wet floor sign could be considered negligent. To establish negligence, you first have to your loved one was owed a duty of care. This means that the defendant had an obligation to your loved one.
Once you’ve established the defendant’s duty, your attorney will focus on exemplifying how that duty was breached—like if they failed to abide by a traffic law before causing an accident. The third element is causation. You’ll need to be able to connect the breach of duty to the fatal injuries directly. Finally, you can seek damages to manage the expenses related to your loved one’s passing.
Wrongful Death Damages
Survivors of a wrongful death victim may be able to seek compensation for related losses. The following types of damages may be available:
- Medical Expenses. Depending on the accident your loved one was in, they may have incurred extensive medical bills before their passing. If that’s the case, we can see that those are included in the value of your claim. This way, you won’t have to worry about constant calls or letters from the hospital or insurance company.
- Funeral and Burial Expenses. Unfortunately, end-of-life services tend to be expenses. Whether you know what your loved one would want, or your family is deciding as a unit what type of event to hold, costs for a casket or urn, cremation or embalmment, funeral and burial, or celebration of life can be taken care of.
- Conscious Pain and Suffering. If the deceased was aware of their impending death or expressed pain during their passing, it can take a severe emotional toll on the surviving family members. Compensation may be available for conscious pain and suffering.
- Lost Earnings. Whether your loved one was the breadwinner or contributed to your household’s earnings, not have access to that income anymore can mean being unable to manage bills or put food on the table. To determine the value of your loved one’s lost earnings and retirement benefits, we’ll work with economic experts who will review their employment history.
- Loss of Consortium. If you’re filing a claim on behalf of your spouse, you may be awarded compensation for the loss of services, assistance, aid, society, and companionship.
- Punitive Damages. While punitive damages are rare, they are awarded in situations where the actions resulting in death were intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent. Punitive damages punish the at-fault party and serve as a warning to discourage others from acting similarly.
At Thomas Law Offices, we understand that no amount of money will bring your loved one back. Seeking compensation for their passing may seem odd, but it’s often the only way to secure your family’s future. We’ll guide you through this challenging process with sensitivity and sympathy.
Get Help From a Bowling Green Law Firm
The passing of a loved one is always tragic. For those who have experienced an unexpected loss because of someone else’s actions, it can be more challenging to move through the grieving process—especially if you’re concerned about your finances.
When you seek help from a Bowling Green, KY wrongful death lawyer, we’ll stand by your side, ensure you understand your rights, and seek justice for your loved one. We recognize the pain you’re in, and we’re here to support you and ensure your family has what it needs to move forward together. Contact us today for more information.