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How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

By Trapp & Geller

It really only takes a fraction of a second for your life to change irrevocably. And most of the time it’s not because you just won the lottery.

Instead, many of us experience life changes due to horrible circumstances often beyond our control. An accident at work ends with a family’s sole breadwinner dying due to their injuries.

A child dies of an allergy while in the care of a daycare center leaving his parents childless and heartbroken. A young mother is taken from her children too early because she was in an abusive relationship that eventually took her life.

When someone dies because of negligence, abuse, or an accident, the survivors feel cheated. A wrongful death claim can help bring the justice and financial support you deserve. Keep reading to learn how to file a wrongful death claim.

What Is Wrongful Death?

Ordinarily, when harm is caused, whether intentionally or not, to an individual, they can pursue a personal injury claim. However, since deceased people can’t defend themselves in court, a wrongful death claim must be filed by someone else.

Intentional Killing

A wrongful death suit can be brought about in instances where the victim is intentionally killed. This is exactly what happened in the now-infamous case of OJ Simpson.

While one jury found him innocent of the crime, the family members of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman filed a wrongful death suit against him in civil court and won.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice results in 250,000 deaths each year. It’s the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

Wrongful death cases can be brought about if a doctor fails to diagnose a condition. You can also claim wrongful death if the doctor was negligent in their care which resulted in death.

Automobile Accidents

40,000 people lost their lives in 2017 due to automobile accidents. Drugs, drinking, and reckless driving are just a few of the reasons why these car accidents occurred.

But these are just a few examples explaining what is a wrongful death lawsuit. The only exception is where work injuries result in death. Those must be handled through workers’ compensation.

Grounds for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim

In wrongful death cases, the victim’s survivors must prove that their loved one’s death was caused by another party’s recklessness, negligence, or the death was caused deliberately.

In other words, you must prove that the event that leads to the victim’s death was not brought about by his or her own actions or even inactions. As a surviving family member, it’s up to you to show proof that you’ve suffered financially and/or emotionally due to your loved one’s wrongful death.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit

Who can file a wrongful death suit on behalf of the deceased depends on which state you live in. In all 50 states, surviving spouses and children can file.

In some states, extended family members such as grandparents and siblings are allowed to file. It’s also possible in some states for life partners or anyone who can show they were financially dependent on the victim to file a wrongful death suit.

No matter who files, you must open a probate estate in order to sue on behalf of the deceased. And if minor children are involved in the wrongful death suit, the court may request a guardian be appointed.

In cases where a wrongful death suit is pursued and the victim left a will, the executor of the estate has the sole right to bring about a lawsuit.

Why You Should File a Wrongful Death Suit as Soon as Possible

It’s not a wise idea to take your time when it comes to pursuing wrongful death cases. Each state has its own statute of limitations and if you let that time period pass by without filing a suit, it will be dismissed.

While there are rare circumstances where the deadline is extended, it’s not wise to assume this can happen in your case.

Meaning, if you allow the statute of limitations to pass, you won’t have the right to compensation, no matter what happened. Thankfully, all 50 states give you at least one full year to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The only exception is when the government or a government employee caused the victim’s death. In that case, you’d need to file a notice of claim with the government in 90 days or less.

What Damages You Can Collect

What is a wrongful death suit worth? It depends on what kinds of losses the survivor is experiencing.

In some cases, you can collect on a survival claim. This involves monetary compensation for the victim’s pre-death pain and suffering.

You’re also likely to receive monetary compensation for any medical costs the deceased person incurred as a result of their injuries prior to death. Damages also often include all funeral and burial costs.

But survivors lose out in the future as well. For those survivors who are financially dependent on the victim’s income, without the compensation they could face some very tough times.

Damages Due To Loss Of Financial & Emotional Support

Luckily, the loss of the deceased person’s expected lifetime income is often included in the damages. It’s also possible to recoup the loss of any inheritance the victim lost out on as a result of their death.

If the victim was a caregiver to family members, you may be entitled to the value of the services that the victim would have provided. Also taken into account is the loss of care, guidance, and nurturing the deceased would have provided.

Many times, compensation is awarded as a result of the pain and suffering the family members endure due to their loved one passing away suddenly.

Lastly, depending on the case and which state the lawsuit is opened in, there may be punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the person who caused the death and discourage them from doing it again in the future.

Not all states allow for punitive damages, though.

Get Representation Today

Don’t wait until it’s too late to file a wrongful death claim. You deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering.

We can help you file the right papers, answer all your questions, and provide you with the support you need.

We’re waiting to hear from you. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.


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