Mississippi Wrongful Death: Do I Have a Case?

This video features Merrida Coxwell, a Personal Injury attorney based in Mississippi.

Jackson, MS Lawyer Explains Who Can File a Claim

Video Transcript:

Merrida Coxwell:

You obviously need to get on these cases early, you need to gather the evidence together, because when the evidence is gone, it's gone.

Rob Rosenthal:

How do you know if you might have a case for wrongful death and where do you get help? We're gonna find out right now because that's what we're going to Ask the Lawyer. Hi again everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com. My guest is Mississippi Attorney Merrida Coxwell. I wanna remind you right off the top, if you'd like to ask Merrida some questions about your situation, just go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the Ask a Lawyer button up in the upper right hand corner and we'll walk you right through the process right there. Merrida as always, it's great to see you. Thank you for helping us out. 

Merrida Coxwell:

You're welcome. It's good to be here again.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's just start at the beginning, this is sort of a definition, wrongful death, it sounds like it's self-explanatory, but from the law standpoint, what makes a wrongful death case?

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, of course, in probably every state, it is defined by the state law in Mississippi, it's just losing your life at the hands of another, for example, a bad product, auto accidents and big rig accidents are the biggest causes of wrongful death. But you could actually have someone commit a criminal act on you and for example, kill you, and that would also be a wrongful death, though there may not be any way to collect compensation for it in those instances.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's talk about, say, in a collision with a truck accident or automobile, obviously, sometimes those are catastrophic injury cases, how might it a wrongful death case differ from that, is it just that the victim is no longer alive?

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, there's a big difference in the amount of damages. Mississippi has a limit on what we call general damages, or some people say hedonic damages, and the most you can get for loss of enjoyment of life and all those other types of damages, we might discuss later is $1 million. Now, you can get damages for a funeral and any hospital while you were alive, and your lost wages, for example, if you've been killed, your wife can sue for $1 million and all your special actual damages. If you have a catastrophic injury, you're gonna also have a limit of 1 million for your general damages, but you're not gonna have any limit on your special damages. I remember a case recently where there was a $31 million life care plan, that's what it was going to cost to take care of the person with the catastrophic injury. So that's your biggest difference. 

Rob Rosenthal:

And tell me, because I know you've had in your experience, you've handled some wrongful death cases and have had some big recoveries... Tell me a little bit about your experience with those. 

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, our biggest recoveries have been from automobile crashes, product, serious injuries and deaths, prescription drugs, failure to warn cases, if you remember the diet drug debacle, back in the late 90s and early 2000s, we had hundreds of those people. Those were the biggest cases, and we had a crashworthiness case where a truck rolled over and killed a very young man with a family, those were our largest cases and they're very, very difficult and difficult for the lawyer and hard on the families.

Rob Rosenthal:

Are there unique challenges as far as proving wrongful death?

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, I have always said that a good lawyer can handle any kind of case if he wants to, but you obviously need to get on these cases early, you need to gather the evidence together because when the evidence is gone, it's gone. And in some instances, for example, take someone who dies and you perhaps need an autopsy, the person dies and is cremated or buried before you get one, it completely decimates a case, you need to recover evidence on the scene in a big rig or rollover case. The more time that goes by, the more harm that it can be done to the individual's case. 

Rob Rosenthal:

Are there sometimes cases Merrida that may start out as a catastrophic injury case, and then unfortunately it becomes a wrongful death case. And what happens then? 

Merrida Coxwell:

Yes. We had a very, very bad scalding case where we had a manufacturer's claim against a hot water heater that scalded someone, and of course, the injuries were third-degree burns. They were huge. And then the person died. The injuries, in some ways, they're cut off by their death because they won't need treatment, they won't need skin grafts, so that cuts down on the injuries, and I don't know how this person would have handled life had they not died, I'm sure it'd be better to their family and they stay alive, but these kind of sad situations just happen.

Rob Rosenthal:

You've mentioned damages a couple of times, what kind of damages are options for wrongful death, what kind of damages can be recovered in a wrongful death? 

Merrida Coxwell:

Sure. Loss of enjoyment of life, anxiety, loss of society and companionship, worry, lost reputation. Those are the damages and they're more than that, but those are just the ones that come to my head that we call general damages, and then special damages would be your property damage, your past lost wages, your future lost wages, your inability to get gainful employment, burial expenses. Just everything that you can write down on a piece of paper of what we call your actual damages or special damages, and then the general damages are the ones that's a little bit harder to put a pencil to, but they're the ones that make life enjoyable, like being able to stand up, kick a ball with your children or your grandchildren, go out boating, fishing, hunting, those are the intangible things that people lose, but they make life enjoyable. 

Rob Rosenthal:

So in a wrongful death case, who is eligible to recover those damages? 

Merrida Coxwell:

Well, that is set by statute, and there's an order, and if there is a wife and children, they are the ones that have the primary right to recovery. There's no wife, it's the children, if there's no children it's the wife, if there are no wife and children, than our law sets forth the remainder and that would be mother and father, and brothers and sisters, and then it goes down the list from there.

Rob Rosenthal:

Why is it important Merrida have an experienced wrongful death attorney handle your wrongful death case?

Merrida Coxwell:

You and I have discussed this issue a number of times, and it's important because these cases have a lot of lawyers call elements of proof, you've gotta get to the evidence quickly, you've gotta put that evidence together, you have to know what expert witnesses that you need. You have to know how to handle expert witness. We don't have specialties in Mississippi, but you have to have a lot of years experience if you're going to handle what I would call a complicated injury case, and that is one that everybody will have their dividing line, but I'd certainly say if you're starting to get over $50,000 - $100,000 in damages, you've got to complicated or at least a serious case. 

Rob Rosenthal:

Merrida, lots of useful information as always every time we talk. I appreciate you making some time for us.

Merrida Coxwell:

You're welcome. Thank you and have a good day.

Rob Rosenthal:

You too. That's gonna take care of this episode of Ask the lawyer. My guest has been Mississippi attorney Merrida Coxwell. Remember, if you'd like to ask Merrida questions about your situation, go to askthelawyers.com, click the button in the upper right hand corner that says, Ask a Lawyer, it'll walk right through the process. It doesn't cost you anything to ask a question. Thank you for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask The Lawyers.

Disclaimer: This video is for informational purposes only. In some states, this video may be deemed Attorney Advertising. The choice of lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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