How a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Works
What to Expect When You File a Wrongful Death Suit After the Loss of a Loved One
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, you know that it is a very upsetting and traumatic event that incurs wounds that last for years. The upset associated with the death of a loved one is even worse when it’s a sudden occurrence. When a loved one is ripped away from you, your loss can be made worse knowing that your loved one was killed in an accident that was preventable.
When someone dies as the result of another person’s negligence or wrongful acts, the family of the deceased person can be financially compensated for this unfortunate situation. They can hire Los Angeles personal injury attorney to file a civil suit against the person responsible in what is called a wrongful death lawsuit.
These kinds of lawsuits are meant to provide financial support to the families of the victims. Wrongful death lawsuit lawyers will seek compensation for both the financial struggles that result from the loved one’s death as well as compensation for the mental anguish that occurs after the death of a loved one.
What is a Wrongful Death Suit?
Wrongful death claims are filed when the victim’s death was the result of negligence or a wrongful act by someone else. Many different circumstances can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit, and these can be pursued against anyone except for certain parties with governmental immunity. Some common situations that result in wrongful death suits are:
- Medical Malpractice – These situations involve negligent doctors, nurses, or caretakers who do not properly diagnose or give the proper level of care to their patients. Families of those who die in surgery or are prescribed the wrong medication frequently pursue these cases.
- Motor Vehicle Accidents – When the other driver exhibited gross negligence, like texting while driving, then the surviving loved ones of the deceased driver can receive compensation.
- Manufacturing Defects – When a company fails to provide a warning to users of its product, customers can lose their lives. For example, a couple received $46 million following a suit against IKEA after their toddler was crushed by a dresser that did not come with a tipping warning or wall anchor kit.
- Criminal Activity – Wrongful death suits can be pursued against murderers, although they are usually on the grounds of intentional acts. While a criminal case puts the defendant behind bars, a civil case like this will ensure the family of the victim is compensated for their financial and emotional suffering.
It should be noted that these are civil suits, meaning the verdict has to do with financial damages. If your loved one died as the result of an intentional act, the state can hold the defendant criminally liable, which can result in jail time and additional penalties. The civil case will be held separately from the criminal case, so it’s possible that the defendant can be found guilty in one case and not the other.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Suit?
If someone close to you died following another’s negligence or intentional acts, you may want to hire a wrongful death attorney Los Angeles to file your claim. Only certain family members can pursue these kinds of claims, and they are meant to be family members that were financially dependent on the deceased or extremely close in relation to the deceased.
The types of people that can claim damages in a wrongful death suit are:
- The deceased person’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, romantic partner, or putative spouse
- The deceased person’s surviving children or stepchildren
- The children of the putative spouse of the deceased
- The deceased person’s parents
While the parents of someone who passed are not always financially impacted, they can receive compensation for emotional loss. If a minor was dependent on the deceased for housing or at least 50% of their living expenses, then an attorney will also be able to file a claim on their behalf.
What Damages Are Available?
Damages in a wrongful death suit are similar to those that would be filed in a personal injury suit. These damages are based on the financial damages incurred from the wrongful death as well as any mental anguish. These are considered “losses” in the eyes of the courts, and they include:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills for the deceased person’s medical attention leading up to their death
- Lost income, including potential income that the deceased person would have earned had they not passed
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of companionship or love
- Loss of consortium
In some states, punitive damages may also be awarded as a sort of punishment to make sure the defendant changes their behavior in the future. Punitive damages are not available in California, but they this law changes based on which state you are in.
Statutes of Limitations
Similar to personal injury claims, a wrongful death claim must be filed within a certain time period in order for the plaintiffs to get compensation. These time frames vary depending on which state you are in.
In California, the statute of limitations is two years from the death of the victim, so your wrongful death lawyer in Los Angeles must file your suit before that time period is up.
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