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What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Going through the loss of a loved one can be a highly traumatic experience. It gets even more distressing when their death is caused by someone else’s intentional or negligent behavior.
Indeed, the healing process can often begin by seeking justice for your loss. That’s where a wrongful death lawsuit can help you obtain compensation for your grief and help you find some peace.
But before you move forward with filing such a lawsuit, you must make sure that you understand its basic foundations. This helps you determine whether this route is suitable for you or if you should move forward with a different approach. The simplest way to do that is to reach out to an experienced law firm that specializes in handling these cases.
At Miller Luzier, PLLC, our seasoned attorneys hold the knowledge and expertise to handle wrongful death lawsuits with the skill that they require. Our team ensures to support you throughout this complicated process with our deep understanding of legal nuances and the utmost commitment to robust representation.
Whether you are exploring your options or picking your legal team, our experts can help you make an informed decision. With our detailed consultations and proactive services, you can move forward with the process without adding more stress to your current level of grief.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death lawsuit is filed on behalf of a deceased individual whose death allegedly occurred due to another person or entity's negligence or misconduct. In legal terms, the deceased individual is referred to as a “decedent.” Whereas, the person who files the lawsuit on the decedent’s behalf is called a “plaintiff.”
The claim is presented as a civil lawsuit and does not include any criminal charges. This particular aspect sets it apart from homicide cases such as murder or manslaughter, which are classified as criminal lawsuits.
Those parties who are tried under murder or manslaughter cases are subject to prison time if proven guilty. If fines are present in the case, they are paid to the state instead of the defendant’s survivors. In some cases, the court can order restitution and pay it to the decedent's family members.
In contrast, those defendants who are found guilty in a wrongful death lawsuit only have to face a monetary judgment or financial penalty. This compensation is directly paid to the plaintiffs or surviving family members.
The surviving family members or plaintiffs who file a wrongful death lawsuit often choose this path due to its burden of proof. While it is more challenging to get a conviction in a criminal suit such as manslaughter, it is easier to prove the defendant guilty in a wrongful death case.
As a result, filing a wrongful death lawsuit may help the surviving family members find peace in a judgment that is in their favor. Since the defendant's conviction also provides the plaintiffs with sufficient financial support, this civil lawsuit can help them get back on their feet after suffering an irrevocable loss.
In such a lawsuit, the plaintiffs can sue for damages including but not limited to wrongful death, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. The rewards may depend on a variety of factors, including the state where the lawsuit is filed.
If you want to seek damages by filing this civil lawsuit as a plaintiff, you should start by discussing your case and possible outcomes with an experienced attorney. This helps you make sure that you are moving forward after considering all aspects of your claim.
Who May Sue for It?
A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed by the surviving family members of the deceased individual. This refers to an immediate family member such as the spouse or parent of the decedent. In some states and scenarios, it is also possible for the plaintiff to be a child of the deceased individual. Some states also allow family members such as siblings and grandparents, and domestic partners to file the lawsuit as plaintiffs.
In cases where the decedent was married at the time of their death, the plaintiff is typically their spouse. In scenarios where the decedent was single, the plaintiff is usually one of their parents. As mentioned above, if the decedent had an adult child, it is possible for them to be a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Depending upon the state, other individuals may also qualify to be the plaintiff in these suits.
In a family where multiple members may file the lawsuit as a plaintiff, one of the individuals is usually named in the suit. This decision is made after the mutual discussion and understanding between the family members and associated individuals.
This decision is critical in some jurisdictions. Some states may change the possible reward or compensation based upon who is filing the suit as a plaintiff. For instance, some states may only allow a loss of consortium claims when a spouse is a plaintiff in the case.
Since a plaintiff has to pursue court proceedings with the help of their lawyer, the aspect of where you are filing your lawsuit and how you will arrange your visits to possible hearings also comes into the picture. That’s why you must consider these aspects and discuss them with your attorneys before filing a wrongful death claim.
Who May Be Sued for It?
When it comes to wrongful death lawsuits, any party who is allegedly responsible for an individual's death can be sued for damages.
In many cases, defendants facing a criminal lawsuit for murder or manslaughter can also face a civil lawsuit for wrongful death. While the criminal case handles the possibility of prison time and fines to the state, the civil lawsuit addresses the potential damages that the decedent's surviving family members can recover from the defendant. If the criminal case results in restitution, that compensation is added to the damages sought in the civil lawsuit.
It’s common to see businesses and organizations as defendants in wrongful death lawsuits. These claims are often brought up against these entities due to the negligence or misconduct of their employees or processes that allegedly result in the decedent's untimely death.
Since the burden of proof is low in wrongful death lawsuits, it becomes easier for surviving family members or plaintiffs to convict the defendants in these cases. This increases plaintiffs' chances to seek financial compensation for their loss and cover additional costs such as funeral expenses.
Sometimes, the lawsuit can stem from professionals' alleged actions that may or may not work for an organization. For instance, a plaintiff could sue a doctor for the decedent's untimely death on the grounds of alleged negligence or misconduct. In such scenarios, one could sue either the specific individual or their medical facility under the civil lawsuit.
To make sure that you can bring a wrongful death claim to light, you need to discuss the pertinent circumstances with an experienced attorney. This ensures you know who to name as the defendant in your suit. This helps you move forward with the rest of the process.
How To Prove Wrongful Death
Even when you name a plaintiff, a defendant, and an alleged cause of wrongful death, you still need to prove the intentional or negligent actions that led to the decedent's untimely death. Until you can conduct this requirement, you are unable to obtain the necessary compensation for your loss.
The following factors prove this.
Duty of Care
This aspect relates to the defendant’s direct responsibility towards the action that they neglected or mishandled. For instance, if you are filing a civil suit against a doctor, you need to prove that they had a duty to care for the decedent and their health.
Breach of Duty of Care
Once you define the duty of care for the responsible party, the next step comes in the form of proving its breach. Following the doctor example above, you may need to prove that the defendant administered incorrect medical care to the decedent or provided them with no care.
After you have defined the defendant’s duty and the subsequent breach, you must move to the next step. This next step is all about showing how it caused the decedent’s death. For instance, in the example above, if a doctor used the wrong medicine dosage that caused a fatal reaction for the decedent, it could define all three aspects at once.
Even though a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit, it is still full of different intricacies that call for significant attention to detail. If you fail to address even one of these complexities, it can cause your whole case to fall apart. That is why you must reach out to experienced attorneys who can cover all of these aspects with the utmost expertise.
At Miller Luzier, PLLC, we understand the grief and stress that could come with the untimely death of a loved one. We make it a point to support you through your claim and fight to represent your interests. Our teams will help you seek the compensation you deserve for your loss.
See how our attorneys can help today. don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation. Our legal experts have the knowledge and overall expertise to help you navigate these difficult times.