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Written by AskTheLawyers.com™
When a loved one dies, the pain and stress can be overwhelming; this terrible situation is made worse when the death came as the result of another party’s negligence. When someone dies as the result of negligence, it is considered a wrongful death. Wrongful death falls under personal injury law, and it often involves car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and other forms of negligence.
What all wrongful deaths have in common is that they could have been prevented if the negligent party had acted responibly followed the law.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the person who brings the charges is called the plaintiff. In many cases, the plaintiff is a family member of the person who died. They will file suit against the person or entity responsible for the death.
To be successful in a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff must prove three elements:
Duty of Care
The first element, duty of care, means that the person who caused the death had a responsibility to act with care. If the wrongful death suit involves a car accident, then the other driver had a “duty of care” to drive responsibly, i.e. don’t drive drunk, stay alert, and keep your eyes on the road. In something like a product liability suit, the product makers have a responsibility to provide safe products to the marketplace.
Breach of Duty of Care
The plaintiff must also prove that the defendant breached this duty of care. If the driver was drunk or texting, if the makers of a defective auto part failed to fully test the product (or knew it was dangerous but put it on the market anyway), these could all constitute a breach of duty of care. Same for a doctor who took shortcuts during surgery, a nurse who used the wrong chart, or a pharmacist who filled a prescription incorrectly in medical malpractice cases.
Causation of Death
If you’ve proven that the defendant made an error, the final step is to prove that this error caused the death. It’s possible that despite this error or negligence, the person died from other causes. An experienced personal injury lawyer will fully investigate the facts and circumstances of the death to determine if negligence was a factor.
When considering whether to file a wrongful death lawsuit, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between a criminal and a civil trial.
A criminal trial will be handled by prosecutors when the state decides to bring charges against a potentially negligent entity. For example, a suspect being charged with murder. These trials can result in fines, jail time, or other forms of punishment if the trial results in a “guilty” verdict. However, a criminal trial does nothing to help a grieving family.
This where a civil wrongful death lawsuit, with the help of a personal injury attorney, can assist the family.
By filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you can recover compensation to help with your losses. These can help cover:
Additionally, a wrongful death lawsuit can help change the law and prevent future losses for other families. Many lawsuits have helped bring about policy changes and changes to the law to increase safety measures. Corporations and government entities are not going to change harmful practices out of the kindness of their hearts. Legal action can prevent future tragedies.
It’s important to keep the statute of limitations in mind when considering a wrongful death lawsuit. In most cases, you have two years from the date of the misconduct that caused the death to bring a suit. This is why it is best to speak to an attorney as soon as possible so you can ensure that you do not miss the deadline.
When searching for an attorney to handle a wrongful death case, find one who has experience handling your type of case. Medical malpractice cases, for example, are extremely complex and time-consuming. You’ll want to make sure that your lawyer has handled those types of claims before. A lawyer with recent trial experience is also preferred in case your claim cannot be settled (a vast majority of wrongful death lawsuits end in a settlement).
Most personal injury attorneys will handle a wrongful death case using a contingency fee. This means they will not charge any attorney fees to handle the case. Instead, they would receive a portion of the verdict or settlement when the case concludes. If the case is unsuccessful, then the plaintiff would not owe any attorney fees.
It may turn out that you do not have grounds to file a wrongful death case. If so, an attorney can let you know during a free consultation. In either case, you can achieve peace of mind by speaking to an attorney and learning about your available options.
Start your search for a wrongful death lawyer near you today by choosing a lawyer that lawyers choose.