An unexpected death in a family can leave everyone not knowing where to turn or what to do in the aftermath of such a tragic event. Spouses and dependent children are the most seriously impacted, physically and emotionally, by the loss off the loved one. In this time of mourning, understanding just exactly who can file legal claims can be confusing or just too overwhelming to endure. In these delicate times, even though the family’s focus is on dealing with the loss, the family may need to consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer that has handled wrongful death claims.
What is a Wrongful Death Action?
A wrongful death claim is the most serious types of personal injury cases. A wrongful death claim arises when an individual passes away because of the negligence of another individual or company. The individuals that can bring a lawsuit for wrongful death is established by law. Examples of those individuals that could potentially have right to bring a wrongful death case are the decedent’s children and spouse. The incident giving rise to a wrongful death action could happen in a work environment (fall, construction work), in a serious car wreck (drunk driver or 18-wheeler) or sometimes, as a result of a medical treatment. Wrongful death claims can arise from a wide array of scenarios, and all claims are strongly defended even when fault is obvious. For these reasons, it is important to understand that any delay in initiating investigation into a case could cause for vital information and evidence to be lost, misplaced or completely damaged.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim
In order to be able to bring a wrongful death action, there are certain elements that must be established. The plaintiff must be a statutory beneficiary of the decedent. The defendant must be a person or a corporation. The defendant’s wrongful act caused the death of the decedent and the decedent would have been entitled to bring a personal injury action for the injury if he/she had lived. The statutory beneficiary had to have suffered an actual injury.
Who Can Bring Legal Action
It is important to understand that wrongful death actions are additional legal recourse for the family who is left in the wake of the unexpected death. Decedent estates have standing to file survival actions in these cases, but the claims generated from a wrongful death action belong to the family members who have standing, normally a spouse, any dependent children or parent of the decedent.
What Can Be Claimed?
Wrongful death actions for surviving family members are essentially loss of consortium claims that are based on the loss of emotional and financial support that would have been received from the decedent during the span of a normal life. Just as in a personal injury claim, all material case facts are important, and they will determine the value of any wrongful death claim. Specifically, claims can include recovery for pecuniary loss (Decedent’s earning capacity, maintenance and support), mental anguish (of the Plaintiff), loss of companionship and society and loss of inheritance.
After a loved one has passed away as result of an on-the-job injury or a motor vehicle crash, the rights that the deceased would have had to file a lawsuit do not terminate because that individual passed away.