Wrongful death suits are civil cases that are brought against defendants who are responsible for causing the death of another individual. This type of action allows the family members of the deceased to get justice against the responsible party and recover compensation for damages that they have incurred due to the loss. If youíre not sure if you have a wrongful death claim, there are several questions that you should ask yourself to know if you have a wrongful death case or not.
Did an Individual Die?
The first thing that you will have to prove in any wrongful death claim is that someone did actually die in an accident that involves the defendant. Itís an easy element to prove, yet critical to your case.
Was the Fatality Caused by Another Partyís Negligence?
You must be able to prove that the defendantís negligence was the direct cause of the death of your loved one if you want to recover compensation for damages for your wrongful death case. The first thing to consider is whether or not the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. A duty of care is a legal premise that means the defendant had a legal obligation to act in a responsible and reasonable manner. For example, any driver of a vehicle must act responsibly and reasonably when operating their vehicle. They must obey all of the traffic laws and drive sober.
The next step is to prove that the defendant breached that duty of care. That means the defendant did not act in a reasonable or responsible manner. Driving while intoxicated is a breach of duty that all drivers owe to other drivers who are on the road. Running a red light is also a breach of duty as the traffic law was not obeyed.
However, proving that the defendant breached his duty of care and broke the law is still not enough to win a wrongful death suit. You must also prove that the breach of duty was the proximate cause that led to the death. If a driver runs a red light and strikes the victimís car, it is clear that the driverís actions led directly to the victimís fatality. But, if the death had nothing to do with the reckless decision to run a red light, the defendant cannot be held responsible for the personís death. Proving negligence is the most difficult part of a wrongful death suit, but hiring a good lawyer can help you prove it.
Are You Legally Allowed to File a Wrongful Death Suit?
Although many people may grieve the loss of a loved one, that doesnít mean that all of those people are legally permitted to file a wrongful death claim. Every state has its own laws about who is able to file a wrongful death claim. Sometimes, the victimís spouse, parents and children can file a wrongful death claim. Typically, extended family members like aunts, uncles and the victimís sibling are not permitted to file a wrongful death claim. But, if those people are the administrator of the victimís estate, they may be permitted to.
How Long Ago Did the Victim Die?
Every state has a statute of limitations on how long surviving family members have to file a wrongful death claim. Youíll need to consult with an attorney to find out what the statute of limitations is in your state. And if you donít file a claim before the deadline, the court will dismiss the case.
If your stateís statute of limitations is two years, that may sound like a long time. But, it can go by quickly. Itís very important to act quickly to ensure you donít go over the deadline to file your wrongful death claim. Even if your loved one was killed by a drunk driver and that person has a criminal case pending, donít wait. Thereís no reason to wait for a criminal case to finish up before filing your civil case. Itís always wise to file your wrongful death claim right away.
Have You Suffered Losses or Incurred Expenses As a Result of the Death?
You wonít be able to get any compensation unless you can prove that youíve suffered losses or incurred expenses as a result of the death of your loved one. If you paid for the funeral, that would be considered an expense. Were you financially dependent on the deceasedís monies? Family members can also receive compensation for loss of companionship, loss of love and loss of care. An attorney can assist you in calculating your losses and determine the value of your wrongful death claim.
If your loved one has been killed due to the result of someone else's negligence
, contact an attorney right away. An attorney can let you know whether or not to file a wrongful death claim.