When you lose someone you love from someone else’s careless actions, it’s devastating, not to mention all the legal tasks you must do while still mourning your loved one. One of the most challenging tasks is determining who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Our wrongful death attorneys at Rand Spear are here to help explain who is eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit and other important aspects you need to know to have a successful wrongful death case.
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Suit?
The people eligible to file a wrongful death claim depend solely on your state’s laws. For example, in some states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is the person that can file the claim. The representative is often a family member, and the typical order of succession to determine who files the wrongful death claim is as follows:
- Children, biological and adopted
If all the family members listed above are also deceased, relatives further down the family line could be eligible to file. But if the person died without a will, the state court will appoint a personal representative responsible for distributing the damages to surviving family members.
What Causes of Death Qualify for a Wrongful Death Case?
Any situation in which another person’s negligence or intentional acts led to someone else’s death can be grounds for a wrongful death case. You may have a case if your loved one’s death was a result of negligence in any of the following case types:
- Car accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Slip and fall
- Workplace accidents
- Truck accidents
- Defective products
In each case, negligent actions or inaction could have resulted in your loved one’s death. If you’re unsure whether you have a case, a wrongful death lawyer at Rand Spear can review your case for free and confirm if you do.
How do You Prove a Wrongful Death Case?
Similar to other cases, you must prove that your loved one’s death resulted from someone else’s negligence. To do so, your lawyer must prove the following elements of negligence:
- Duty of care: The person must have had an obligation to take a reasonable amount of care to avoid causing harm to your loved one.
- Breach of duty of care: The person must have ignored the duty of care by performing negligent actions or failing to act accordingly to avoid hurting them.
- Fatal injury: Your loved one must have suffered an injury that later killed them. There must be clear evidence that the breach of duty was the reason for the fatal injury.
- Damages: Due to the fatal injury, the decedent’s family must have suffered economic and non-economic damages.
To prove these elements of negligence, you can work with a wrongful death attorney. They can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove that your loss qualifies as a wrongful death.
How Much Time do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
All states have a statute of limitations for wrongful death when you must file your claim within. Most states give you two years from your loved one’s death to file, but some states may have a stricter deadline or a longer grace period. Therefore, it’s essential to know your state’s laws to have a high chance of success in your case.
If you fail to file within the statute of limitations, you won’t be eligible to recover any damages you were once eligible for. These deadlines prevent people from filing claims years later against people when evidence is lost or tampered with and prevent the courts from being overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that regardless of the statute of limitations for wrongful death, there may be exceptions that give you longer or restrict the time you have to file. For example, you may have longer if a case needs more investigation. A wrongful death lawyer can meet with you and tell you how long you have to file based on the details of your case.
What Damages Can You Be Awarded in a Wrongful Death Case?
Losing someone close to you is a traumatic experience. And along with their death comes losses that can make your grieving much more difficult. Damages in a wrongful death case can help surviving family members recover three types of damages:
Also known as monetary damages, economic damages are losses you suffered as a result of the deceased’s death that impact your finances. These losses are often things you have to pay out-of-pocket for. You can recover the following economic losses with the help of a wrongful death lawyer:
- Paid and unpaid medical expenses for the decedent’s death
- Funeral costs
- Burial expenses
- Loss of pension
- Loss of financial support, if you were dependent on your loved one
In addition to economic damages, you can recover non-economic losses after losing someone you love due to someone else’s negligence. Non-economic damages are the opposite of economic losses in that they don’t have a monetary value. Instead, these damages are associated with the long-term effects of your loved one’s death, such as:
- Loss of companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of counsel
The last type of damage you could recover in a wrongful death case is punitive damages. Unlike the other damages we mentioned, this damage is less commonly awarded, so it’s not a standard damage. Instead, punitive damages are reserved for wrongful death cases where the liable party intentionally hurt your loved one, which led to their death.
Punitive damages are neither economic nor non-economic because they’re to punish the party responsible for your loved one’s death. The purpose of punitive damages’ purpose is to discourage the liable party and society from repeating the grossly negligent actions.
A court’s judge or jury must decide if you can receive punitive damages.
Some states have damage caps, meaning you can only recover a certain amount. A wrongful death attorney can explain your state’s laws in detail and help you understand if you’re eligible for punitive damages.
Learn More About the Requirements in a Wrongful Death Case
Our team of wrongful death attorneys at Rand Spear wants you to have all the information you need to start your case. In addition, we can help you throughout the process to understand any additional laws or answer your questions about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
To learn more about filing a wrongful death lawsuit, call us or fill out the contact form on our website.