Wrongful death is when someone dies or passes away as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. For example, a piece of machinery malfunctions and then someone gets injured and later dies. Or a car wreck happens and a person gets killed. Or an individual is inappropriately prescribed medication and dies as a result.
Who can sue for wrongful death?
The family or more specifically, the next of kin or the surviving spouse, of the deceased loved one can sue for wrongful death.
What is the difference between wrongful death and murder?
Wrongful death can be a murder. If someone kills a loved one, you can definitely sue them for civil damages and that would be a wrongful death suit in itself. You could also sue someone for negligence concerning a wrongful death. So wrongful death can run the gamut from an intentional act to an accidental one caused by recklessness or negligent action.
How is the amount of damages awarded determined?
It varies according to the circumstances of the case. Courts try to make up for the damage by making the injured party whole and helping that person come back to 100% recovery. Damages can therefore cover anything from:
- lost wages
- loss of future income
- any other monetary losses suffered as result of injury
- pain and suffering
What information should I prepare for a wrongful death suit and what should I bring to the attention of an attorney?
In preparing for a wrongful death suit, make sure you have the following information:
- the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident
- the names of any witnesses
- the description of any evidence that remains connected to the scene of the wrongful death
Can I sue for pain and suffering incurred by the person who died?
Yes, but it would depend on the time of the injury and how long that person endured the pain and suffering.
What is the difference between civil and criminal cases that can be brought forward regarding a wrongful death?
A wrongful death in a criminal case would actually be called a murder or manslaughter. In a civil case, a wrongful death is when somebody dies because of the wrongful act or negligence of another.
If someone murders a loved one, you can indeed sue that person. The family of Nicole Brown Simpson, for example, sued their daughter’s ex-husband O.J. Simpson for exactly such a situation and received damages for it.
Are punitive damages recoverable in a wrongful death action?
Yes. Punitive damages are recoverable in wrongful death actions when they can be shown to deter wrongful acts from occurring again.
Is there ever a situation where a plaintiff need not consult with an attorney for a wrongful death?
No. This is because the insurance companies that figure in wrongful death cases are businesses. As such, they are set up to be as efficient and economical as possible and will do everything in their power to make sure that they pay you the minimum amount of money allowable.
If you don’t get an attorney and decide to deal with an insurance company on your own, it’s a little like going into court and trying to be your own lawyer: the chances of you succeeding are slim.