Wrongful Death AttorneyLast updated on: April 25, 2022
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When a person dies because of an accident that was not their fault a surviving family member may be entitled to claim compensation. While money cannot fully compensate for the loss of a loved one, it can help the surviving family members get back on track and pay for any unexpected bills that have arisen from this death.
For more information, call Zinda Law Group on (855) 524-7268 to speak with an attorney for free. Our attorneys understand that during this difficult time, you shouldn’t have to worry about the legal world and the costs involved in making a claim. That is why we offer free consultations and a no win no fee service. This means that if we don’t win your case, you pay us nothing.
Wrongful Death Defined
A wrongful death attorney helps the families of people who were killed in an accident seek compensation against the party liable for their death. A wrongful death claim exists when a person dies in an accident that was not their fault. The lawsuit filed against the party at fault, if successful, can provide financial compensation to the family of the deceased.
Any fatality caused by the wrongful acts of another may provide grounds for a wrongful death claim. Most states legislatures define wrongful death as a death that is caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.
Some of the most common causes of accidental death are:
- Car Accidents
- Truck and 18-Wheeler Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Drunk Driving Accidents
- Gas Explosions
- Loss of a Child
- Medical Malpractice
- Workplace Accidents
- Product Liability
What To Do After an Accident
1. Contact Emergency Services
You should first contact emergency responders such as paramedics and police officers. In many cases, the victim of a wrongful death does not die until sometime after the occurrence of the accident. Alerting emergency responders as soon as possible can thus help preserve life.
2. Document the Incident
You should next file a report with the proper authorities that outlines the circumstances giving rise to the incident. Describe in as much detail the events that surrounded the accident. Such a report may prove to be beneficial if a wrongful death lawsuit is later pursued. Other aspects that you can document are:
- Photos of the scene of the accident
- Receipts for any costs that arose from the accident
3. Speak with a Lawyer
If you are interested in pursuing a wrongful death claim, or if you would like to learn more about what you can do to recover compensation for your family, contact a lawyer. A lawyer will listen to you and discuss the facts of your case. The attorney will then be able to guide you through the process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
To determine who is at fault for the accident, there are several elements that need to be present:
1. A Duty of Care
While the precise definition of a duty of care depends on the circumstances and relationship between the parties, a duty of care generally refers to a duty to keep someone safe, or to refrain from doing something that would harm someone.
For instance, in car accidents caused by speeding that led to a death, it would likely be argued that the person at fault had a duty to act in accordance with traffic laws so as not to endanger other road users.
2. Breach of Duty of Care
It must also be shown that the person at fault breached that duty. This can be accomplished by providing evidence that the at-fault person engaged in an act that led to the death in question. For instance, in the case of a car crash, evidence may be provided to show that the person that caused the accident was speeding. The at-fault person’s disregard for speed limits would be considered a breach of duty of care.
It must also be shown that the breach of duty of care caused the accident that led to the death. Specifically, able to establish that the particular actions of the Defendant directly caused the wrongful death.
In general, proving damages means proving that a loss was incurred (damages), either physically or financially. In cases of wrongful death, if the elements of duty, breach, and causation are established, damages may be presumed.
How to File a Claim
To file a wrongful death lawsuit, it must first be established, who can file the claim. Regulations will differ from state to state. In some states, the deceased’s surviving spouse, children, siblings, parents, or other relatives are authorized to file a wrongful death claim. However, other states authorize only the personal representative or executor (named in a will) of the decedent’s estate can file a wrongful death claim.
1. Contact a Lawyer
If you are authorized by your state to file a claim, your first step should be to contact an attorney. Your attorney will want to meet with you to review the facts and circumstances of your case and help you in establishing how to move forward with your claim.
Your attorney will then conduct a thorough investigation into the facts of the case. In doing so, your lawyer may interview several parties including the person who caused the accident, witnesses to the accident, and insurance companies who cover the accused party.
After gathering as much information as possible, your attorney will likely contact you to review your options moving forward. If the case is strong enough, a lawsuit may be filed. Your attorney will then proceed to seek settlement for your case.
Wrongful Death Settlement
Although each state differs with respect to the specific types of damages allowed in a wrongful death case, the types of damages involved in these cases can be broken down into two general categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages comprise the value of the financial contributions the decedent would have made to his or her surviving family members had it not been for his or her death. Economic damages may include:
- Medical expenses related to the death
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of expected earnings
- Loss of benefits (e.g., pension plans and/or medical coverage)
- Loss of inheritance
- The value of goods and services that the decedent would have provided
Non-economic damages are less concrete and more subjective than economic damages. However, non-economic damages tend to be more valuable than economic damages. Types of non-economic damages may include:
- Compensation for the survivors’ mental anguish or pain and suffering
- Loss of care and protection from the deceased
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
Calculating compensation is often a complex task. Economic damages may be calculated by examining the financial statements of the deceased up until the time of death and projecting his or her future income up until the time of retirement. Non-economic damages are much more difficult to calculate, and often require a jury to make subjective decisions based on several factors.
Your attorney will help you in understanding how compensation is calculated and the value of your particular case.
Legal Time Limits
States set a time limit, called a “statute of limitations,” on bringing a wrongful death claim. A statute of limitations means that wrongful death claims must be filed within a specific time frame. If a claim is sought after the time limit is up, you may not be in a position to pursue compensation at all.
Although there may be some variation between states, the general rule is that a lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the misconduct that caused the death of the decedent. For example, if a person was killed in a car crash on January 1, 2019, a wrongful death suit must be filed before January 1, 2021, before the claim is barred from being litigated in court.
Some states have a three-year statute of limitations for wrongful death cases. In some instances, the statute of limitations may be as short as one year. Further complicating the issue are special exceptions for cases involving minors or individuals with mental disabilities.
Because the statute of limitations is a crucial factor when seeking compensation, it is always a wise decision to seek the advice of an experienced lawyer, especially if you think the statute of limitations is nearing. An attorney can provide you with legal advice regarding the status and viability of your claim.
Loss of a Child
States allow the parents of a child who was killed in a wrongful death case to recover damages under their wrongful death statutes. Typically, these damages include monetary payment for the loss of the child’s contribution to the family, loss of the relationship with the child, the grief that is experienced because of the loss of the child, and possibly damages for future earnings.
If the child survived for some time following the accident but soon passed away because of injuries sustained, damages may also be sought for any medical expenses incurred in the treatment of the child.
Because these cases vary from one case to the next, the circumstances leading up to the child’s death will significantly determine the outcome of the wrongful death suit. Speak with an attorney to better understand specific state laws and your legal position.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Navigating a wrongful death claim by yourself can be a difficult and complex task. Seeking legal representation can provide you with many benefits. Below are just some of the reasons why hiring an attorney to pursue your wrongful death case may make a difference in your case.
Knowledge of the Law
An attorney has experience handling wrongful death claims. This means that your attorney understands the legal complexities involved, thus putting you in a better position to argue the facts of your case.
Access to Resources
An attorney can strengthen your case by making the most of the resources available to them. For instance, an attorney can conduct an interview and get access to surveillance footage, traffic cameras, or safety logs. An attorney also has access to all relevant statutes and laws that apply to your case.
Saving Time and Money
An experienced lawyer knows about court deadlines and statutes of limitations. They have experience with filing documents on time and can help you build the most persuasive case to increase your chances of receiving fair compensation for your losses.
Aside from acting as an advocate for your position, you don’t have to go through this alone. Many clients feel a sense of comfort knowing that their case is being handled by a professional. Hiring a legal partner to help you can give you peace of mind in knowing that your case is being handled in an efficient and professional manner.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
The paying out of wrongful death settlements varies from state to state. Distribution is tricky because most times the compensation goes to different parties. In determining how wrongful death settlements are paid out, courts take into consideration several important factors such as the age of the beneficiaries, the legal capacity of the beneficiaries, the relationship between the surviving relatives and the deceased, and whether or not any balances are due against the deceased’s estate.
Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In general, the money received from a wrongful death lawsuit will be distributed to the surviving family members. However, the allocation of the compensation received varies from state to state. For instance, some states will look to the last will and testament of the decedent to determine who gets the money. Other states require that the money be split amongst the surviving family members in proportion to their damages. Some states allow the family members to decide amongst themselves how the money will be split. Your attorney will help you in understanding how compensation is divided between surviving family members in your case and state.
Who Can File a Lawsuit?
A wrongful death claim is typically filed by the personal representative of the estate of the deceased. This person is usually named in the deceased’s will. They may bring the case forward on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with the deceased.
Often, the personal representative is a family member of the decedent, such as the decedent’s surviving spouse, adult child, sibling, or parent. If the designated individual cannot or chooses not to serve as a personal representative, or if no estate plan for the decedent exists, the court will appoint a personal representative.
Laws vary from state to state, to determine who can file your lawsuit, speak with an attorney for more information.
Talk to Zinda Law Group
Losing a loved one due to the negligence of an individual or a company can be one of the hardest things a person ever endures. In addition to the emotional pain of loss, you may now be left facing mounting financial burdens and the uncertainty of the legal system. Not knowing whom to turn to for help or what to do next can leave the survivors of the deceased overwhelmed and confused.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this alone. The nationwide wrongful death attorneys at Zinda Law Group are here to help you and your family through this difficult time. Our compassionate lawyers are ready to answer your questions and advise you on the best way to move forward.
Call Zinda Law Group today at (855) 524-7268 for a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.
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