When a person is killed in an accident, it may be possible for the family of the victim to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death cases are essentially personal injury cases filed on behalf of the deceased. Therefore, to win such a case, it must be shown that negligence played a role in causing a person to die.
What Is Negligence?
Negligent behavior generally includes any act that a person knew or should have known could put a person in harm’s way. For instance, a doctor failing to run a test could be guilty of negligence if doing so would be considered part of a reasonable treatment plan.
This is because the test could have allowed for a more accurate diagnosis and the potential for the condition to be cured. A motorist may have engaged in negligent behavior by driving too fast for road conditions or by talking on a phone while driving.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
State law may limit who can file a wrongful death suit. In most cases, only direct family members such as a spouse or child can do so. However, it may be possible for a grandparent or other family member to file a case depending on the circumstances.
When Must a Wrongful Death Suit Be Filed?
In many states, a wrongful death suit must be filed within two years of the death. However, the statute of limitations may be longer or shorter depending on where the death occurred or who is accused of causing it. It is not uncommon for a victim’s family to file a lawsuit merely to preserve their rights even if they don’t plan on going to court.
Can Multiple Parties Be Named as Defendants?
Depending on the facts in a case, multiple parties may be named as defendants. For instance, if a doctor is negligent in causing a patient’s death, the hospital where the death occurred could be held liable. If faulty brakes led to an accident, the company that made the car or the brakes could be held liable in addition to the driver who caused the accident.
What Types of Damages Can Be Awarded?
It may be possible for a jury award to include damages for physical pain and suffering as well as the family’s emotional suffering. If the deceased incurred medical bills prior to dying, any costs incurred by the victim may be paid by those liable for that person’s death. Lost wages and lost future earnings because of wrongful death may also be awarded to the victim’s family.
Punitive damages may also be available in some cases. These are damages designed to dissuade others from engaging in similar behaviors in the future. The idea is that the amount will be so high that they can’t be considered as a reasonable cost of doing business by a corporation or insurance company.
Is There an Appeal Process?
If either side is not happy with what a jury decides in a wrongful death case, it may be possible to appeal the ruling. In some cases, a jury award forms the baseline for an eventual settlement. State and federal law may also cap the amount of punitive or other types of damages that a victim’s family may be entitled to. Therefore, a judge may choose to reduce a verdict or encourage all parties to continue with settlement talks outside of court.
If an individual dies because of the actions of another person or entity, it may be possible to seek compensation. This may act to both hold the offending party liable for what it did as well as help surviving family members maintain their standard of living. Those who are considering a lawsuit should contact an attorney to learn more about their options.