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What Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Do?
A wrongful death lawyer handles lawsuits for families who have lost a loved one (the decedent) because of the negligence or wrongful act of another party. To answer the question “What does a wrongful death attorney do?” it is helpful to understand the nature of a wrongful death case.
Generally, the decedent’s ability to bring a personal injury claim, had they survived the incident, is a required element of a wrongful death claim.
For instance, if a driver was speeding or ran a red light and struck the decedent’s car, that driver could be held liable for the decedent’s injuries from the collision.
In addition, if the decedent later died from injuries sustained in the car accident, the decedent’s survivors may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Notably, it is not necessary that criminal conduct caused the decedent’s death. Rather, negligent or reckless conduct by someone, which causes the death of the victim, can support a wrongful death claim. A car accident, a fall down defectively made stairs or a construction site accident may cause a wrongful death case.
Notwithstanding that, a physical attack resulting in loss of life may enable family members to file a wrongful death claim. If the victim had not died and could have filed a personal injury suit against his attacker, his survivors can file a wrongful death suit against the attack.
the wrongful death suit is entirely separate from any criminal prosecution of the attacker.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Action?
Typically, the personal representative of an estate has the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit. The estate’s personal representative may be a person named in the decedent’s will.
In the absence of a will, the probate judge will appoint a personal representative for the estate.
The personal representative files a wrongful death suit on behalf of surviving family members. They may file wrongful death suits on behalf of a surviving parent, spouse or child./p>.
In addition, a blood relative who depended on the decedent for support may be part of the suit.
Types of Damages that Can Be Collected in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
When a person files a personal injury claim because of an injury or illness caused by another’s negligent act or willful conduct, they are entitled to damages.
Usually, these damages are medical expenses, physical therapy costs, diagnostic tests, and follow-up office visits with doctors.
Survivors can collect damages for the pain and suffering the decedent went through before he/she died.
In the appropriate case, they may seek punitive damages if the conduct of the defendant was intentional or outrageous.
Economic damages in a wrongful death case can be the biggest part of the damage claim.
For instance, assume the decedent was a 35-year-old business executive who was making $100,000 per year. He had a wife and two children.
A drunk driver killed him in a car accident.
His wife and children have lost his love, comfort and financial support. But his wife was a stay-at-home mom, raising the two children. Where is she going to get the $100,000 per year her deceased husband was earning to pay the mortgage, grocery bill, plumber, and a landscaper?
In that instance, an experienced wrongful death attorney will hire an economist to calculate the economic loss to the wife. Since he was 35 when the car accident occurred, the economist would calculate what loss to the wife was when the car accident killed her husband.
Assuming he would have worked until he was 65, the wife’s economic loss is 30 years of a $100,000 a year salary (and that doesn’t factor in raises he presumably would have received).
They may also recover other financial and non-financial damages. The decedent’s estate may recover the same damages in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Moreover, wrongful death suits may also seek reimbursement of expenses related to death, such as funeral and burial expenses.
Loss of Consortium
A surviving spouse may also receive compensation for losing companionship, support and love typically involved in a marriage. We know this as a loss of consortium. It is widely recognized in wrongful death cases.
Establishing Proof in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
In any personal injury lawsuit, the injured person (the plaintiff) must prove that the defendant acted negligently and such negligence caused the accident in question.
Wrongful death cases (which are a type of personal injury cases) are not different.
The wrongful death lawyer for the estate must show that the defendant’s reckless, intentional or negligent behavior caused the decedent’s death.
In addition, the lawyer must show family members suffered damages because of the death.
As in any personal injury case, the plaintiff must show the defendant responsible for the death failed to exercise reasonable care.
Reasonable care means a person acted in a manner that any other person may have acted under the same circumstances. For example, truck drivers who speed on icy highways are not acting reasonably. Homeowners who do not remove ice and snow from their sidewalks, causing pedestrians to fall, are not acting reasonably.
A wrongful death attorney must show the negligent conduct of the defendant contributed to the death of the decedent.
For example, the wrongful death lawyer would have to prove that the speeding car drove through the intersection, colliding with the decedent’s car. That collision of motor vehicles caused the decedent’s injuries and later death.
Statute of Limitations
In all state and federal laws, there are statutes of limitations that you must take into consideration when filing a wrongful death lawsuit. A statute of limitations pertains to the time you must file legal action after the death of a loved one.
The time will vary depending on the incident that led to the death of your loved one. For example, the estate’s representative must file a wrongful death suit following a fatal car accident within two or three years of the death, depending on the jurisdiction.
If your loved one died because of medical malpractice, you may have more time to sue.
An experienced wrongful death attorney can tell you about the important deadlines regarding your case.
What Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Do?
A wrongful death lawyer can act as your advocate and help you understand the best way to proceed. He can help you understand you are entitled to seek compensation for the death of your loved one.
In addition, we will investigate the circumstances that led to the death of your loved one. We will identify and name the people responsible for your loved one’s death.
Also, we’ll explain your legal rights and your options.
Lastly, if the evidence is there, we’ll file a wrongful death lawsuit to get you and other affected members of your family the compensation to which you are entitled.
Contact us at our Hammond office at 219-200-2000 or online at alexmendozalaw.com for a free consultation.