All You Need to Know About Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a situation in which a person is killed as a result of the negligence or intentional act of another party. The death may be of a loved one, such as a spouse, child, or parent, or it may be the death of a friend or acquaintance. Wrongful death can result from car accidents, truck accidents, medical malpractice, an assault, or any other type of incident in which someone is killed due to another person’s negligence or intentional act.
A wrongful death lawsuit aims to recover financial damages for the victim’s loved ones. In this article, we’ll discuss wrongful death and how it is different from other types of lawsuits.
What are the Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
There are many different causes of wrongful death, but some of the most common include:
Car accidents are one of the leading causes of wrongful death in the United States. In 2021, there were over 37,000 car accident fatalities in the country. If you’ve lost a loved one in a car accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Medical malpractice: Medical errors are estimated to cause over 250,000 deaths annually in the United States. If your loved one died due to a medical error, you might have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
Workplace accidents: Workplace accidents account for over 5,000 annual fatalities in the United States. If you’ve lost a loved one in a workplace accident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against your employer.
How is Wrongful Death Different from Other Types of Lawsuits?
The plaintiff: In a wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiff is typically the victim’s surviving spouse, child, or parent. In other types of cases, the plaintiff is typically the person who was injured or killed.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the damages are typically awarded to the victim’s surviving family members. These damages can include things like loss of companionship, pain, and suffering, and lost wages. In other types of lawsuits, the damages are typically awarded to the injured person.
The burden of proof: In a wrongful death lawsuit, the burden of proof is typically lower than in other types of cases. This is because the victim’s surviving family members are not required to prove that the defendant was at fault for the death. Instead, they only need to show that the death was caused by the defendant’s negligence or intentional act.
While wrongful death and murder or manslaughter may seem similar, there are some critical distinctions between the two. Murder or manslaughter requires proof of intent to kill, while wrongful death does not. Additionally, murder or manslaughter charges are typically brought by the state, while the victim’s family typically brings wrongful death lawsuits.
What are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?
To succeed in a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove four elements:
1. Negligence- The defendant must have owed the victim a duty of care. This means that the defendant must have had a responsibility to act a certain way to avoid harming the victim. For example, all drivers must drive safely to avoid harming others on the road.
2. Breach of duty- The defendant must have breached their duty of care by acting in a way that violated their responsibilities. For example, if a driver runs a red light and hits another car, they have breached their duty of care.
3. Causation- The breach of duty must have caused the victim’s death. In other words, but for the defendant’s actions, the victim would not have died.
4. Damages- The plaintiff must have suffered damages due to the victim’s death. These damages can be financial, emotional, or both.
If the plaintiff can prove all four elements, they will likely be successful in their wrongful death claim.
What is the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims?
The statute of limitations is the time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. The plaintiff will likely be barred from recovering damages if a lawsuit is not filed within the statute of limitations.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims varies from state to state. In some states, the deadline is as short as two years from the date of death. It may be up to six years in others, like Maine and North Dakota. It’s essential to check your state’s laws to determine the deadline for your claim.
How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
The vast majority of wrongful death cases are settled out of court. This means that the parties involved agree on the number of damages to be paid without going to trial.
Wrongful death settlements can be paid out in a few different ways. The most common is for the payment to be paid in a lump sum. This means that the defendant pays the entire settlement amount at once.
Another option is for the settlement to be paid in installments. This means that the defendant pays the compensation over time, typically in monthly payments.
Which option is best for you will depend on your circumstances. A lump-sum payment may be best if you need the money right away. If you’re not in immediate need of funds, an installment plan may be better.
What if the Defendant Can’t Pay the Settlement?
If the defendant doesn’t have enough money to pay the full settlement amount, you may still be able to recover damages. Most states allow plaintiffs to file a lien against the defendant’s property. A lien is a legal claim against someone’s property that allows the plaintiff to collect damages from the sale of that property.
For example, let’s say you settle your wrongful death claim for $1 million, but the defendant only has $500,000 in assets. If you file a lien against their property, you would be first in line to receive payment when they sell their assets.
How Much is a Typical Wrongful Death Settlement?
There is no such thing as a “typical” wrongful death settlement. The number of damages a plaintiff can recover will depend on many factors, including the severity of the victim’s injuries, the number of economic damages suffered, and the state where the claim is filed. For example, a plaintiff who files a wrongful death claim in a state with high damage caps may be able to recover more money than a plaintiff who files in a state with low damage caps. Similarly, a plaintiff who can prove that the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious may be able to recover more money than a plaintiff who cannot.
The best way to determine your claim worth is to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney. They will be able to review the facts of your case and give you an estimate of the number of damages you may be able to recover.
For information about wrongful death and how an attorney can help you, visit https://halelaw.com/sarasota-personal-injury-attorney/wrongful-death/.
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