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The death of a spouse can be an emotionally traumatic event, but it can also present financial strife as well, such as unpaid medical bills and funeral expenses. You may be able to seek compensation for the wrongful death of a spouse if the spouse's death was caused by the negligent or intentional behavior of another person.
If you have lost your spouse because of the fault of another, call the wrongful death lawyers from Zinda Law Group at (512) 246-2224 for a free consultation. If we are not able to recovery any damages in your case, you will not owe us anything.
Proving Fault in A Wrongful Death Case
In order to pursue a wrongful death claim, you must be able to prove that another person was at fault for the death through their negligent actions. To do this, four things must be proven: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
Duty of Care
The first thing that must be proven is duty of care. This means that the person against whom you are filing the suit had an obligation to take certain precautions or behave in a certain manner in order to prevent an accident from occurring.
For example, when operating a vehicle, the driver has an obligation to follow all traffic laws, to not drive while distracted, and to not drive while under the influence. In a workplace setting, employers must take proper precautions such as ensuring proper safety equipment is provided, while also ensuring machinery and tools are properly maintained to prevent malfunctions. When manufacturing products for consumers, manufacturers must ensure their products are safe, and that the products are free from manufacturing flaws that may result in a deadly accident.
Breach of Duty
Next, it must be proven that the person responsible for the accident breached this duty of care. A breach of duty occurs when a person with a duty of care fails to take the proper precautions or act in such a way as they are obligated to.
A driver using a mobile device or driving while intoxicated has breached their duty of care towards other drivers. Similarly, an employer that fails to provide or maintain proper safety equipment has breached its duty to its employees. A manufacturer that produces a flawed product or fails to maintain proper quality control and then manufactures a defective product has breached its duty of care to the consumer.
Even if the duty of care and breach of duty have been proven, it must also be proven that this breach of duty did in fact cause the accident that resulted in the death of your loved one.
If a driver is distracted by a mobile device or is unable to pay proper attention to the road due to intoxication, and drifts into oncoming traffic, their breach of duty has caused the accident. If an employer has failed to maintain their equipment properly, and a malfunction kills an employee, causation may be proved. A manufacturer that produces a dryer with a design flaw that causes house fires has breached their duty of care and caused the wrongful death if a consumer dies in a house fire caused by this defect.
Finally, if the duty of care, breach of duty, and causation have been proven, it must also be proven that the accident caused damages. However, in most wrongful death cases, damages are usually assumed, as the victim is deceased as a result of the accident.
Do I Need A Lawyer?
Hiring an experienced attorney may help you to pursue your claim in a variety of ways. Filing a wrongful death suit can be a complex procedure, and an attorney may help you navigate the intricacies involved. A lawyer may be familiar with the relevant state and federal laws regarding the case, including time limitations, regulations, and case law that may aide your suit. An attorney's knowledge of the law in this area may help them to investigate your case, as they have experience with what to look for to help prove liability and negligence, as well as how to obtain this evidence best.
Those responsible for wrongful death cases tend to be covered by insurance. These insurers’ only goal is profit, which means that they may seek to pay the least amount possible to settle any claim. In order to achieve this, they have teams of lawyers whose job is to minimize settlement payouts as much as possible.
Insurers may attempt to bury claims in a labyrinth of legal processes, counting on your inexperience to prevent you from successfully navigating them. By hiring your own attorney to represent you, you level the playing field and have a legal representative familiar with these types of cases which can work for you and help you seek the compensation you may be entitled to.
Compensation for a Wrongful Death Claim
Compensation in wrongful death cases may include both economic, as well as non-economic damages.
Compensation for economic damages are based on financial damages that may have been incurred as a result of the accident, and may include:
- Medical Expenses: Compensation for medical expenses may cover costs such as hospitalization, treatments, and medications.
- Funeral Expenses: Funeral expenses generally cover the costs related to funeral services, burial, and other related costs.
- Lost Income: If your loved one was unable to work for a period of time as a result of the accident, before their death, you might be able to seek compensation for lost wages during that period.
- Loss of earning potential: Compensation for loss of earning potential may be awarded to compensate for the loss of future income caused by the passing of a spouse. Numerous factors go into calculating this kind of compensation, such as the deceased’s age, sex, salary before the accident, and general health before the accident, for example.
Compensation for non-economic damages is more difficult to calculate since they seek to provide compensation for factors that do not necessarily have a clear financial value. These compensations are based on a multitude of factors that are unique to every case. Non-economic damages may include:
- Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering damages may be awarded to compensate for the physical and emotional pain suffered as a result of the accident by the deceased before they passed. Many variables may be considered, such as the severity of the injuries and their impact on the quality of life.
- Emotional Distress: Emotional distress damages may be awarded to compensate for the emotional anguish the deceased’s family may have endured as a result of the death of their loved one, and the amount may vary, as it is influenced by the unique facts that surround each case.
- Loss of Consortium: Loss of consortium damages may be awarded to compensate for the loss of companionship due to the death of a spouse.
How To File A Claim
1. Contact an Attorney
If you have lost a loved one in an accident and negligent or reckless behavior may have been involved, you should contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. This allows for your lawyer to have time to review and investigate the accident, as well as meet any deadlines that may be applicable to your case, such as the statute of limitations.
Once you have consulted an attorney, if they decide to take your case, your attorney may begin by investigating the accident that resulted in the loss of your loved one. This can include examining the evidence surrounding the accident, such as photos, videos, and witness statements, to list a few examples. This investigation may help them to determine who may be liable and if negligence may have been involved.
After the initial investigation, your attorney may enter into discovery with the at-fault party or their representatives, or those of their insurers. This process allows both sides to examine the facts relevant to the case, such as insurance coverage that may be available. Both sides are also able to question those involved in the accident as well as witnesses to determine what happened accurately.
Once your attorney has completed their review of the accident, and discovery has been completed, they can determine the amount of compensation you may be entitled to. They may then present the claim to the insurer. The insurer typically rejects this claim and counteroffers with a sum of their own, usually a very low figure. The stronger evidence you have to support the claim of negligent behavior by the liable party, the stronger your bargaining position may be. These negotiations have the potential to go back and forth until a settlement is reached.
If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the case may go to trial. Your attorney may present your case before a jury, and the jury may then make a final decision regarding the settlement.
Legal Time Limits
Different states have different statutes of limitations or legal time limits within which you are able to file a suit. Regarding wrongful death suits, most states have two-year time limits. However, depending on the specific state; there may be other factors that determine the time window in which you may file a wrongful death suit. In some states, there may also be different statute of limitations regarding who is allowed to bring forward a wrongful death suit, such as a spouse or children of the deceased.
OUR EXPERIENCED WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS MAY HELP!
Unexpectedly losing a close family member due to the misconduct of another party is a saddening and tragic event. An experienced and compassionate wrongful death attorney may help you bring a claim against the opposing party for their misconduct.
At Zinda Law Group, we have wrongful death attorneys with the resources to help you seek maximum compensation from the party that may have caused the wrongful death. Call Zinda Law Group today at (800)-863-5312 for a free consultation.
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