Accidents are a part of life, but sometimes their occurrence ends the life of someone you love. This is especially disconcerting when someone’s negligence was the direct cause and the accident was avoidable. Under these circumstances, family and loved ones of the deceased may have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
This area of the law is not without complications, especially considering the limiting factors related to filing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thousands of people die each year from a large spectrum of accidents. Here, we provide answers to five common questions about filing wrongful death suits.
- Who can rightfully sue for wrongful death?
The general rule is anyone who is financially harmed by a person’s death has a right to file a wrongful death claim. Normally, these claims are only for surviving family members such as:
In some states, grandparents, siblings and domestic partners are also permitted to sue. The claim should be filed by a representative for the survivors.
In addition, parents of a deceased fetus might have a basis for filing a wrongful death claim. However, financial and emotional losses are not recoverable to the parents in several states. Still another distinction is the wrongful death action is only permissible when the child died after being born alive.
- How long does the deceased’s family have to file a wrongful death claim?
Time limits for filing a wrongful death claim with the court varies based on statutes of limitation. Each state has its own rule, but in most states the claim must be filed within two years of the date in which misconduct lead to the victim’s death. Some cases may require filing within one year. A wrongful death or personal injury lawyer Phoenix AZ can review your case and advise you on how it may be affected by the statute of limitations.
- Who is liable for the wrongful death?
Liability in a wrongful death lawsuit can fall on a variety of corporations, government agencies, and individuals. When the case involves a car accident, for example, action might include the driver and other defendants such as:
- Person or entity who designed or built the roadway
- Government agency that did not provide adequate warnings about the road hazard that caused the accident
- Distributor, installer, or manufacturer of the dangerous part of the vehicle
- In a drunk driving death, the person who sold or served alcohol to the impaired driver
- Owner of premises where the drunk driver was served or provided alcohol
- What damages can be awarded in the lawsuit?
Damages in a wrongful death lawsuit are usually divided into two categories: financial damages and punitive damages. Punitive damages are meant to punish the liable person or party for their negligence.
Financial damages are losses for:
- Medical and hospital bills of the deceased person
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Lost wages and income, which includes potential future income that the deceased would have reasonably been expected to earn had he or she lived
- Loss of love, affection, moral support, guidance, and community
- Do I need legal representation in a wrongful death claim?
Wrongful death actions often involve very complex areas of the law in any state. Therefore, seeking legal representation to help you navigate this legal process is essential. Having an advocate who understands the law and how it will be interpreted in your lawsuit increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome.
Some cases may result in large damage awards, while others might continue for several years. The unexpected loss of a loved one is an emotional tragedy that can impact the entire family. While you grieve, our law firm will fight on your behalf. As one of the leading law firms for wrongful death claims, we are here to provide excellent representation during this difficult time.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Lorona | Mead for their insight into wrongful death suits.