When someone you love dies because of another party’s careless or reckless behavior, it is important to learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit. The following are 10 frequently asked questions, along with answers, for those who have lost a loved one and are thinking about filing wrongful death claims.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims are closely related to personal injury lawsuits in that they both allow parties to seek compensation when someone else’s negligence or omissions result in an injury to another person.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the law recognizes that the injured victim can file a claim to seek compensation from the responsible party for his or her losses. With a wrongful death lawsuit, the injured party is no longer alive to file a personal injury claim on his or her own behalf. Accordingly, a wrongful death lawsuit, in effect, allows another person to step into the place, so to speak, of the deceased in order to seek compensation.
Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Like other wrongful death questions, this answer depends upon specific state law. In general, most states require a “personal representative” of the deceased to file a claim. In most states, this refers to a close family member such as a surviving spouse, child, or parents.
Do I Have a Wrongful Death Claim?
Because each case has its own distinct set of facts, it can be difficult to determine whether you have a wrongful death claim without speaking to an attorney. You should contact a wrongful death lawyer to receive a free case evaluation.
How do I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Depending upon the state in which you plan to file a claim, you typically begin the process by determining whether you are eligible to file a claim, and working with a wrongful death lawyer to file your lawsuit within the time window required by the state’s statute of limitations.
How do I Prove Wrongful Death in a Wrongful Death Case?
Though each state has its own wrongful death laws, generally, a plaintiff must be able to prove:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased;
- The defendant breached that duty of care;
- The defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused the death; and
- Damages resulted.
How Long do I Have to Sue for Wrongful Death?
The amount of time you have to file a claim depends upon your state’s wrongful death statute of limitations. Under New Jersey Wrongful Death law, for example, a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years from the date of the deceased’s death.
How Much can I Sue for in a Wrongful Death Civil Suit?
Most wrongful death claims allow the plaintiff to seek compensatory damages, which include both economic and non-economic damages. Compensatory damages are designed to compensate a party for losses. Examples include:
- Medical bills prior to the deceased’s death;
- Lost wages while the deceased was hospitalized;
- Future wages;
- Pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death;
- Funeral and burial expenses; and
- Loss of companionship of a loved one.
In some cases, plaintiffs also may be able to seek punitive damages.
What is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?
Because each wrongful death case comes with its own set of facts, it is difficult to provide information about an average wrongful death settlement. However, an experienced wrongful death lawyer can examine the facts of your case and discuss the damages for which you may be eligible.
What are a Wrongful Death Attorney’s Fees?
Your wrongful death lawyer can discuss taking your case on a contingency fee basis. This means your attorney only gets paid if he or she is able to recover money for you in a settlement or jury verdict.
Do I Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer to File a Lawsuit?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be extremely complicated.Therefore, it is always a good idea to have an experienced advocate on your side.
If you have questions about filing a wrongful death claim, you should get in touch with an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.