Signs That You May be Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Joe Jones with Law Office of Bruce A. Ralston.
Wrongful death occurs when someone’s passing was the direct result of another party’s negligence or intentional acts. If you suspect your loved one’s death could have been prevented by proper attention to safety, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. A wrongful death claim is a type of lawsuit in which a deceased victim’s surviving loved ones can seek compensation for the same damages the victim could have if they survived, in addition to certain damages specific to wrongful death cases regarding the family’s loss.
A wrongful death claim may also be pertinent if a victim was in the process of filing a personal injury claim when they died of their injuries. However, not everyone is eligible to file a wrongful death claim, and the rules can vary from state to state.
If the death could have been avoided, you may be eligible to file a claim.
Unfortunately, not all deaths are avoidable. When someone passes away after a medical procedure in which the outcome was already not favorably predicted, or as the result of a dangerous situation outside the would-be defendant’s control, a wrongful death claim may not be viable. However, whenever someone’s actions or lack thereof directly cause or contribute to a person’s death, that party may be considered liable in a wrongful death claim.
It can be difficult to figure out what qualifies as an avoidable death, so if there is any doubt, it’s a good idea to talk to a wrongful death attorney about the situation. These attorneys typically offer free consultations and even work on contingency, which means clients don’t pay unless they win their case. This allows grieving families to explore their options, get the help they need, and focus on healing and recovery rather than worrying about another expense.
Immediate family members are more likely to qualify to file.
Not everyone can file a wrongful death claim. Although the rules regarding eligibility to file vary from state to state, in general, the filer must be an immediate family member of the deceased. Immediate family members may include parents, domestic partners, and adult children. In some states, “distant” family members such as grandparents or siblings may also be allowed to file, providing the deceased did not have any more immediate family. If the victim already had a will drawn up prior to their death, the executor of the victim’s estate would also be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf. It may also be possible for a family member to petition to be assigned as a personal administrator for the deceased’s estate, in which case they would also be considered eligible to file in most states.
Damages which may be sought in a wrongful death claim are unique, including:
- Medical bills accrued before the victim’s death as a result of their injuries.
- Lost wages suffered by both the victim during medical treatment and family members taking time off work due to the injury/death.
- Pain and suffering experienced by the victim prior to their death.
- Loss of income experienced by the family as the result of their loved one’s death, especially if the deceased was a primary wage-earner.
- Loss of care and companionship or consortium experienced by the family as the result of losing their loved one, particularly for a spouse and/or young children left behind.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
To learn more about wrongful death claims or for help investigating a claim, reach out to a wrongful death attorney in your area.