Why should you seek the help of wrongful death lawyers?

by | Apr 24, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

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The loss of the loved one is unbearable and stressful to the decedent’s family. While experiencing heartbreaking emotional trauma, pursuing the wrongful death claim of your loved one becomes unendurable. Let the wrongful death lawyers toil on behalf of you while you try to cope with your loss.

Before understanding the necessity of wrongful death lawyers, let us know more about wrongful death. According to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 173,040 unintentional accident deaths were reported in 2019.  These unintentional accident deaths and intentional deaths in crimes come under wrongful death lawsuits. Unlike criminal lawsuits, where the murderer is punished, wrongful deaths fall under civil lawsuits, where the person who caused the death is made to compensate for the demise of the victim.

Wrongful death lawsuit

A wrongful death claim is filed against an individual or an entity that caused the death of the loved one due to their negligence or intended action. Wrongful death laws differ depending on the state. Generally, a representative of the decedent’s estate can file the claim suit on behalf of the bereaved family of the decedent. Otherwise, the family members of the decedent can pursue the lawsuit. Based on the preponderance of the evidence, wrongful death lawyers can justify your right to claim compensation and relieve you of the financial burden.

1. How does the wrongful death claim work?

Like all personal injury claims, wrongful death is also dealt with based on negligence on the part of the defendant under the four major factors – duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damage. Only the difference is the damage refers to the death of the victim.

Duty of care: The defendants have a duty of care to the victims. They must have acted responsibly to the victim. For example, a driver should be careful not to harm others while on the road, or a medical provider must be responsible for protecting the life of the deceased by giving proper care.

Breach of duty: The wrongful death lawyers should be able to prove that the defendants have breached their duty of care and acted negligently in causing the death. A misdiagnosis or surgical error of the healthcare provider, the negligence in keeping the premises safe for the people by the owner or the contractor, or poor road maintenance by the government agency – all these are breaches of duty.

Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty of care should be proved to have inflicted the death-causing injuries.

Damages: Damage here is the loss of a precious life. By becoming a reason for the death of the victim, indirectly, the defendants are inflicting emotional trauma and financial burden on the victim’s family.

It is the duty of the wrongful death lawyers to prove that the burden of proof is met by providing strong evidence to receive the claim.

2. What comes under wrongful death?

Deaths that occur in the following type of injury-causing accidents come under wrongful death.

  • Amusement park ride accidents
  • Automobile accidents such as truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, car accidents, pedestrian accidents, etc.
  • Birth injuries
  • Daycare mishaps or nursing home abuses
  • Electrocution or fire accidents in workplaces
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Medical malpractice where the health providers fail to provide necessary care, fail to diagnose, make errors in providing treatment, etc.
  • Premises accidents like slip and fall, elevator or escalator accidents, swimming pool accidents, etc.
  • Product defects in auto parts, medical equipment, industrial machinery, baby products, fitness equipment, medicines
  • Suffocation
  • Drowning as in boat accidents
  • Violent criminal deeds like shooting or stabbing, or thrashing to death
  • Poisoning

3. Who is eligible to claim wrongful death?

The eligible parties to pursue wrongful death claims are:

  • Spouse of the decedent
  • Children of the decedent
  • Parents of the unmarried decedent
  • Domestic or life partner of the decedent
  • People who are financially dependent on the decedent even if they are not connected to the decedent either by blood or marriage
  • Grandparents of the decedent if they brought him/her up
  • Putative spouse (only in a few states)
  • Parents of the unborn child or deceased fetus (in a few states)

When the representative of the decedent’s estate files the claim, the compensation amount won will be disbursed among all designated beneficiaries.

4. Who can be sued for wrongful death?

People or companies negligent enough to produce harm to the life of the victim can be liable in wrongful death lawsuits. Mainly these negligent defendants include

  • Manufacturers in product defect cases
  • Employee or employer in commercial truck accidents
  • Premises owners or contractors who are responsible for maintaining the area in premises liability cases
  • Government agencies or contractors maintain the road in road defects lead to accidents
  • Negligent drivers in auto accidents
  • Medical providers in medical malpractice cases
  • Nursing home or daycare facility, and the abuser
  • The murderers in violent criminal actions

5. Damages come under wrongful death lawsuits

The damages that can be claimed under wrongful death are as follows:

  • Pain and suffering undergone by the decedent due to the injuries when alive (under survival action)
  • Medical expenses of the decedent before the death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of consortium
  • Loss of financial support and guidance to the dependents
  • Loss of future earnings based on the earning capacity at the time of the victim’s death and life expectancy
  • Loss of inheritance

How can wrongful death lawyers help you?

To know the specific wrongful death statutes of your state, you need the assistance of experienced and diligent wrongful death attorneys. The wrongful death claim is complicated. Experienced wrongful death lawyers can aid you with their expertise in mitigating your financial worries caused by the sudden demise of the breadwinner of your family.

Only wrongful death lawyers can

  • guide and support you
  • analyze and ensure your standing to file the claim
  • take necessary action in your litigation within the time limit
  • collect all the possible evidence to build your claim strongly
  • consult with accident reconstruction experts to understand the nature of the accident
  • retain medical experts to understand and prove how the injuries led to the death
  • calculate the intangible damages caused by the death of the loved one
  • negotiate with the defendant parties or the insurance providers involved
  • represent you to the defendants and for the trial in court

Wrongful death settlements

Most of the wrongful death litigations are settled before the trial in court through mediation or arbitration. The claimants and the respondents discuss and negotiate the compensation before a mediator. If both parties agree, the mediator will recommend the ways and means to settle the claim. When mediation fails, the case enters the arbitration process.

In arbitration, a judge or arbitrator listens to the arguments of both parties and decides the actions to be undertaken. This may take many sessions to complete. The adjudicator will give the verdict based on the evidence and arguments. If both parties agree to the verdict, the case will be settled. When the claimants or the defendants disagree with the verdict, they can move for trial in court.

It’s not easy to find an average settlement in wrongful death claims. Each case is different, and you can get from under a million to more than 10 million based on how strongly your litigation is built. Medical chronology companies prop up your wrongful death attorney in sorting out the important medical records of your loved one to build your claim validly.

Case Study

On Aug 1, 2019, Gisella Morales, 15, of Mattawa, was killed when the driver of a Honda Fit, Felix Diaz, 18, attempted to pass two semi-trucks on State Route 24 at the Vernita Bridge. Diaz slammed into a PT Cruiser shortly after 5 a.m., hurting the driver and passenger – a married couple in their 60s — according to Washington State Patrol. Both autos exploded in flames. Later the Grant County Coroner’s Office discovered her identity. Diaz was reported to be in stable condition, but the old man in the other car named Kenneth Crawford died ten days later.

The wrongful death lawyers Andrew Ackley and Ronaldo Delgado had filed a wrongful death claim suit on the death of Ms. Morales.

According to RCW 46.61.120, drivers are not permitted to overtake vehicles in the oncoming lane “unless such left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the operation of any traffic approaching from the opposite direction or any traffic overtaken.”

Though she was seatbelted, her life couldn’t be saved as the driver of her car tried to overtake the semi trucks illegally on the highway. However, he was not charged for causing the death of two people creating harsh criticism from many. The wrongful death solicitors could not do anything in the case since the youngster was not charged. if charged, he would have faced the consequences of killing two, with the efforts taken by the wrongful death lawyers.

How the settlement is paid out

Usually, the wrongful death monetary benefits settled outside the court will be given as a whole sum. When you get the lump sum amount, you can settle the huge monetary bills easily. The beneficiaries can disburse the sum among themselves.

Another method used in payment is structured settlement, where the benefits are divided and paid out monthly for a long period of time. This will be like continuous or ongoing support for the family of the deceased. As the wrongful death settlement is compensation to palliate the monetary burden, it is not taxable.

Beware of the chances of getting a lesser claim value:

The decedent’s age, character, health condition, and earning capacity at the time of death are considered while calculating the damages to determine the pecuniary rewards. If the decedent is proved to be a spendthrift, the reward may be reduced even if his earning capacity is higher at the time of death.

Another factor that affects the claim is the degree of negligence on the part of the deceased in the accident. Lack of vital evidence to prove the negligence of the defendant and inexperienced and ineligible attorneys also might lead to a reduction in the compensation. Failing to file for the claim within the 2-year time limit may result in denial of the claim. Therefore choose well-experienced lawyers for wrongful death to win in your litigation.

Final Thoughts:

The void felt by the sudden loss of your loved one is extremely dismaying and can make you frustrated about the uncertain future. Compensation cannot bring your loved one back. However, it can alleviate your anxieties about the future. Therefore do not hesitate to contact wrongful death lawyers to ensure financial security for your future.

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