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How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?

What Is Wrongful Death?  

A wrongful death claim generally arises from a situation in which a loved one is killed due to another person’s or entity’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. These wrongful deaths may have often occurred in a car accident, from medical malpractice, workplace accidents, or other common types of accidents that may cause someone’s death. Depending on the state, only certain people may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, such as the victim’s surviving spouse, children, or parents, while a few states may allow others to bring a claim, such as siblings or grandparents of the victim.

What are Common Causes of Wrongful Death?

Common causes of wrongful death may include car accident, large truck accidents, medical malpractice, defective products and workplace accidents:

  • Car accidents – Car accidents occur all too frequently, but these accidents may result in death in many cases, based on various factors such as the speed of the vehicles and the force of the impact.
  • Large truck accidents – Given the size and force of large commercial trucks, trucking accidents often pose a severe risk of catastrophic injuries or even death, especially for the occupants of a passenger vehicle struck by the truck.
  • Medical malpractice – Medical malpractice, such as a doctor’s error during an operation or failure to properly diagnose an issue, may result in death.
  • Defective products – Defective products may wrongfully cause a victim’s death, whether the death was caused by a design defect, manufacturing defect, or failure to warn of potential dangers of using the product.
  • Workplace accidents – Many dangerous conditions may often be present in a workplace, especially if an employer fails to provide proper safety equipment or training or if employees fail to follow safe work practices. 

How Does a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Work?

Wrongful death lawsuits typically function similarly to other personal injury claims, except that victims’ loved ones often bring the lawsuit rather than the actual victim. Aside from this crucial distinction, wrongful death lawsuits may often include the following steps:

  1. Contact A Lawyer – Often, the most crucial step of pursuing compensation for a loved one’s wrongful death is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney such as Michael J. Brennan. Your lawyer may help you understand your legal options while handling your case as you focus on recovering from your loss.
  2. Investigation – Your lawyer may begin by investigating the accident and gathering any available evidence proving the other party’s liability for your loved one’s death, such as statements from any witnesses, pictures of the accident, and documentation supporting your claim for damages.
  3. Negotiation – Your lawyer may negotiate with the other party’s insurer to seek an acceptable settlement agreement that would avoid the expense and delay of a trial. The insurance company will have a team of lawyers focused on insurer pays as little as possible, making a skilled lawyer crucial to leveling this playing field.
  4. Trial – If the insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement offer, your lawyer may then take your case to trial and present evidence proving the other party’s liability for your loved one’s death. Here, your case will typically be decided by a jury who will determine whether the other party caused the victim’s death as well as how much compensation you may be entitled to.

The compensation you may be entitled to for your loved one’s wrongful death may vary depending on the case but may include both economic and non-economic damages, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Burial costs
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of potential income
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of parental guidance 

Finally, any wrongful death lawsuit will have to be filed before the expiration of the applicable legal time limits, known as the statute of limitations. Often, victims and their loved ones may have two or three years from the date of the accident in which to file any lawsuit, while most lawsuits filed after the statute of limitations has expired will generally not be allowed.

How Does an Attorney Prove Wrongful Death Happened?

To pursue compensation for a wrongful death claim, you will generally need to prove that your loved one’s death was caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of the other party. Often, wrongful deaths will generally involve negligence claims, which will typically require that you prove four key elements including duty of care, breach of duty, causation and damages:

  • Duty of Care – You will generally need to prove that the other party owed the victim a duty of care, such as the duty to avoid causing an accident while driving.
  • Breach of Duty – You must also prove that the other party breached their duty of care, such as driving while intoxicated.
  • Causation – You must prove that the other party’s breach of their duty of care to the victim caused the victim’s death.
  • Damages – Your loved one’s death usually satisfies the damages element of a wrongful death claim but will also usually include any medical expenses, burial costs, and other economic or non-economic damages.

If your loved one was killed in an accident that may have been caused by someone else, you should contact Michael J. Brennan to take advantage of his years of experience in helping victims, and their loved ones seek any compensation they may be entitled to after an accident.

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