What is the definition of a Wrongful Death claim?
A wrongful death claim alleges that the defendant caused the death of the plaintiff as the result of negligence and that the surviving dependents and/or beneficiaries are entitled to monetary awards. As an example, a wife would have a Wrongful Death claim for the estate of her passed husband against any third party whose negligence caused the death of her husband.
The ironic twist of a Wrongful Death lawsuit is that it is not recognized under common law which the United States adopted from England. For hundreds of years, it was reasoned that family members could not take a claim against another party because the claim did not survive the decedent’s death. Over the past one hundred years, each state has adopted and modified its own Wrongful Death laws. Therefore, it is important to understand that a Wrongful Death claim should be evaluated by an attorney that understands the specific laws in your state.
How do I finance a Wrongful Death claim?
In most cases a Wrongful Death lawyer will offer to represent your Wrongful Death claim on a contingency basis. Most lawyers charge a legal fee equal to one third of the final settlement or judgment amount, plus case costs. It is unethical and a conflict of interest for the lawyer to advance you a portion of your potential settlement to be used for anything other than direct case costs. There are, however, pre-settlement funding companies like Global Financial that can provide Wrongful Death Settlement loans to the individuals that are pursuing Wrongful Death claims.
Who can pursue a Wrongful Death claim?
In most jurisdictions there is law that allows Wrongful Death claims only to the spouses, parents and children of a decedent. However, there are some states which allow “extended family” to bring a Wrongful Death claim, including: cousins, uncles, aunts, step sisters and brothers, legal dependents or grandparents.
What can be recovered from a wrongful death lawsuit?
If the death of an individual was deemed to be caused by the negligent acts of another party, then monetary damages can be awarded to the estate of the decedent and/or any beneficiaries of the decedent. Monetary damages are usually restricted to the following:
Past Lost Wages
- Future Lost Wages
- Pain & Suffering
- Medical Expenses before Death
- Loss of Consortium
- Loss of Benefits, Care & Companionship
- Punitive Damage
How do I choose a Wrongful Death lawyer?
Choosing a Wrongful Death lawyer is a very important step in what may be a long and mentally painful journey to trial or settlement. It is important that you research the lawyer and his/her law firm to understand their experience in handling wrongful death cases before you make a decision. Remember a wrongful death case is much different from many other types of personal injury cases and the attorney you select should have a wealth of experience in this area. In addition, the lawyer you select should have a strong team behind them. It is almost impossible to expect one lawyer to fight the entire Wrongful Death claim.
Several resources may help you choose the right lawyer: https://www.martindale.com, https://www.findlaw.com, https://www.legalmatch.com
Pursuing a Wrongful Death Legal claim may be a long and stressful journey, so don’t rush into hiring a lawyer. Do your research thoroughly before selecting the best match.
What am I entitled to from a Wrongful Death claim?
You are entitled to monetary damages that you have suffered as the direct result of the death by negligence of a third party. Regardless of your relationship with the decedent, you are entitled to the direct loss you have undergone and will undergo as a result of the “wrongful death” of him or her. You are entitled to civil monetary awards and potentially punitive damage awards if the act causing death was intentional or criminal. Punitive damages are monetary damage awards as “punishment” to the defendant. The claimants, in all wrongful death cases, are entitled to everything the law in their state allows and nothing more. If for any reason the defendant is found not to have been negligent in the cause of death, then the death will no longer be “wrongful” and the claimants are entitled to nothing.
How long does a Wrongful Death claim take to recover?
The legal system in America is overloaded with cases, most of which have merit and some that are frivolous. Therefore, all cases take longer than most of us would like and wrongful death cases are no different. There are a few barometers that may help you determine a general time frame with regard to the length of the case.
- The severity of the gross negligence on the part of the defendant makes them more likely to settle early. For instance, if the wrongful death act was criminal in nature, the defendant or their insurance carrier may want to settle the claim quickly.
- The jurisdiction or county that the Wrongful Death lawsuit is filed in will also determine how long a trial date will take to be set. Ask your lawyer how long the docket or calendar is in your area. He may be able to put the case on a fast track, so be sure to ask.
- Complexity of the defendants can play a role in the length of the case. If there are several defendants, then they will blame each other, which can delay the legal process by months or even years.
- Nature of the defendant’s insurance carrier will affect the timeframe of the claim. Certain insurance carriers take a strong stance when defending their client and will, in most cases, take a wrongful death case all the way to trial or at least to the courtroom steps before offering to settle the claim.
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The information contained in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice as Global Financial is not a law firm. You should always consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.