If your loved one loses his or her life as a result of someone's negligence, carelessness or wrongdoing, you have a right to hold the wrongdoer accountable by filing a wrongful death claim and pursuing damages.
A wrongful death claim is essentially a personal injury claim brought by the family of the deceased on his or her behalf, obviously because they can't do so themselves. The same things that would give rise to a personal injury claim had the decedent survived, are the same things that give rise to a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death claims differ from criminal homicide cases because criminal cases are brought by the state and if the defendant loses, they may be sentenced to prison. A wrongful death claim, on the other hand, is filed for money damages. Nevertheless, one does not preclude the other and you can bring a wrongful death claim at the same time that a criminal case is going on.
Why File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The main purpose of a wrongful death claim is to shift the cost associated with the death of your loved one from you and your family to the person or entity who is responsible for your loved one's death.
Therefore, the primary reason why you should pursue a wrongful death claim following the death of a loved one is to be compensated for present and future losses that you have and will incur as a result of your loved one being killed.
What Damages May Be Recovered Under a Wrongful Death Claim?
There are a number of damages available to you and your family under a wrongful death claim, some of which would not be available under a personal injury claim. The damages that you can typically recover include:
- The value of lost household services
- The loss of anticipated financial support
- Funeral and burial expenses
- The decedent's final medical and hospital bills
- Lost future income
- The loss of love of community affection, attention, guidance and moral support
The specific amount of each these damages will depend on a variety of factors.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim can be brought by the family of the deceased person or a personal representative of the deceased person's estate. State law allows the following people to file a wrongful death claim:
- A surviving spouse;
- A surviving domestic partner;
- A surviving child; or if none of the above
- Anyone who would be entitled to inherit the decedent's property under intestate succession law.
Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney Immediately
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, filing a lawsuit is probably the last thing on your mind. However, you only have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful death claim against the person responsible for your loved one's death. So, call a qualified wrongful death attorney as soon as you are able and ready, and before the statute of limitations expires.