Wrongful death occurs when another’s negligence or unlawful act causes a person’s death. A wrongful death lawsuit is a legal issue brought by the deceased’s (decadents) loved ones against the person who has caused the wrongful death.
A wrongful death suit can come up when a victim, who would otherwise have had a valid, personal injury lawsuit claim, dies because of the defendant’s misconduct. There are a few more instances where personal injury claims can become a wrongful death lawsuit or make a wrongful death lawsuit arise are;
. When the victim was killed intentionally. Even though there will be a State’s criminal prosecution trial, the plaintiffs can also file a wrongful death lawsuit.
. When the victim dies as a result of medical malpractice. This happens when a doctor misdiagnoses a patient or the patient dies due to negligence in medical care.
Work injuries that result in the death of a person do not involve a wrongful death lawsuit claim but are put through the workers’ compensation system.
When a loved one passes away because of an act of violence or carelessness, the surviving family members can seek justice by filing a wrongful death lawsuit or submitting a claim. They are called upon to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family member or eligible survivors who had a relationship with the deceased. A qualified criminal lawyer acts as a representative of the dead victim’s estate.
The eligible survivors of the deceased victim are also known in legal language as the real parties in interest. They include; children, parents, spouses, domestic partners, and financial dependents.
The eligibility of the survivors to be compensated in the wrongful death lawsuit claim varies from one state’s laws to another. Generally, the more distant the familial relationship, the harder it is for them to get a legal solution via a wrongful death case.
The burden of proof of a wrongful death lawsuit burden of evidence is the same as if the decedent was alive. There are four elements of evidence, defined by law, involved in a wrongful death lawsuit;
The plaintiff needs to prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff’s deceased loved one, but the defendant breached the task by their negligent actions. Some examples of owing a duty are when a motorist owes the duty of obeying traffic rules and driving safely.
Similarly, medical health providers owe the duty to maintain and care for a patient’s health. The plaintiff has the burden to prove how the defendant’s duty existed in the first place and how their breach of duty directly led to the loved one’s death.
In a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff also must prove their loved one’s death was caused by the defendant’s recklessness, carelessness, and negligence.
In addition to proving the defendant’s breach of duty, the plaintiff has to demonstrate how the defendant’s negligent actions directly caused the death of their loved one.
One needs convincing evidence to prove all the above to win a wrongful death lawsuit. This evidence may include the testimony of an expert to strengthen it further. A criminal death attorney can help build your case around facts provided by the evidence.
A wrongful death claim aims to recover fair compensation for; these are economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are financial losses and include; medical expenses, hospitalization bills, burial and funeral expenses, lost wages, loss of inheritance, and loss of potential earnings. Non-economic damages include; the loss of consortium, loss of reputation, humiliation, emotional distress, shock and mental anguish, and the decedent’s pre-death pain and suffering.
The loss of consortium can be filed as a stand-alone claim by eligible survivors of a victim who died due to intentional or negligent action. The loss of consortium claim aims to recover damages for loss of affection, companionship, guidance, protection, comfort, and sexual and societal relations that the decedent provided before their death.
If the plaintiff’s loved one is injured and not yet deceased, a loss of consortium claim is awarded only if the injuries are severe, permanent, and long-lasting.
The monetary value for loss of consortium damages is usually left to the discretion of the judge or jury because they are difficult to quantify. One needs to seek the help of and qualified, experienced wrongful death lawyer to provide a precise monetary value for non-economic damages.
For loss of consortium claims, the plaintiffs first need to consider whether they are willing to have the intimate aspects of their relationship with the deceased, being put in the spotlight in court.
Before awarding economic losses, the judge and jury look at earnings at the time of death and their potential future income. One may need to enlist the help of an expert economist to evaluate lost wages and other losses in the decedent’s life expectancy.
If the deceased died due to extremely blatant gross negligence by the defendant, the judge would award punitive damages.
‘Survival action’ is allowed for a victim who has a catastrophic injury does not die immediately and has brought a personal injury claim. According to personal injury law, the court allows the estate or family members to recover for conscious pain and suffering before death damages. The judge and jury look into the degree of decadents’ consciousness, awareness of death, and severity of their pain.
Michael J. Brennan is a qualified, experienced wrongful death attorney and related practice areas lawyer practicing in Grundy County, Coal City, and Kendall County, Illinois.
For a free initial consultation and a free case evaluation, contact our wrongful death law firm at 708-801-6762.
Feel free to visit us at our Orlando Park offices at 16521 S 106th Ct, Orlando Park, Il 60467 or our Chicago law office at 77W Washington St 705, Chicago, IL 60602