What is Wrongful Death?

If you’ve suffered the sudden passing of a loved one, you likely have many questions during this terrible time. One of those questions might be, “What is wrongful death?”

To learn more about wrongful death and whether your family might have a claim following a devastating loss, consult a wrongful death attorney in McLean, VA immediately.

What is Wrongful Death

There were 224,935 accidental deaths in the US in a recent year. Many of these tragedies fall under the category of wrongful death.

So, what is wrongful death? The legal definition might vary slightly among states. However, in general, if the negligent or intentional actions of a person or entity lead to a person’s death, the law considers that death to be wrongful. What makes it wrongful is the fact that the death was avoidable. It wouldn’t have happened if the negligent party had taken the proper care or precautions.

Wrongful death is an essential legal concept to know. The reason is that wrongful death statutes typically allow surviving family members to seek compensation for damages resulting from the death of their loved one. These damages may include medical expenses, lost income, funeral costs, and loss of companionship.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim

Wrongful death can result from a wide range of incidents, including intentional criminal acts, car or truck accidents, medical errors, workplace negligence, and many others. Each case is unique, but negligence or wrongful conduct is often at the core of these tragedies.

When a horrible event like this occurs, the surviving family members often take legal action to hold those responsible for the tragedy accountable. Different states have different laws regarding which survivors can take legal action. Many states designate a hierarchy of survivors who can file a lawsuit.

For example, the surviving spouse is “first in line,” so to speak. The deceased’s children can take legal action without a living spouse. If no children exist, the victim’s siblings typically have the right to sue the negligent parties.

In some states, the family must appoint a representative to act as a trustee and file a lawsuit. If the deceased named a representative in their will, that will take priority over the family’s wishes.

The Effects of a Wrongful Death

Not only does a wrongful death have a devastating emotional impact, but it can also create significant financial burdens on the deceased’s family.

The emotional impact of losing a loved one to wrongful death is profound and long-lasting. Survivors may experience shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, and overwhelming grief, often compounded by feelings of injustice and betrayal.

Wrongful death can also have significant financial consequences for survivors, especially if the deceased was a primary breadwinner or contributed to household expenses. Loss of income, medical bills, funeral costs, and other expenses can place a heavy burden on grieving families.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Experiencing a horrible tragedy can leave family members in a haze of confusion. They know someone’s negligence robbed them of their loved one, but they often don’t know what to do to get justice. Thankfully, laws allow them to pursue legal action through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wrongful death lawsuits typically seek compensation for various types of damages incurred as a result of the death. These damages may include:

Economic Damages

Economic damages are tangible financial losses families incur due to the at-fault party’s negligence. Examples include medical expenses related to the injury that caused the death, funeral and burial expenses, loss of financial support or income that the deceased would have provided to their family, and loss of benefits (e.g., insurance coverage, pension).

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are the subjective losses the survivors experience. These include the emotional pain and suffering endured by the surviving family members, loss of companionship, guidance, and consortium, and the deceased’s pain and suffering before death.

Punitive Damages

In rare instances, juries will award punitive damages if they find the defendant’s conduct was reckless, malicious, or oppressive. Some scenarios where punitive damages may apply include the following:

  • Someone gets behind the wheel, knowing they’re too drunk to drive safely, and causes a fatal wreck.
  • A surgeon knows they’re under the influence of a drug and still chooses to perform a procedure.
  • A trucking company requires a driver to continue operating their vehicle even though they’re obviously too tired to do so safely.
  • A hotel refuses to repair broken stairs or railings, and someone dies in a fall accident because the company failed to make safety improvements.

The purpose of punitive damages is to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future. These damages do not correlate with your losses, but the court determines how much to award.

Why You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney to Obtain Justice

If you’re planning to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you’ll need an experienced lawyer’s help. This is a very complex undertaking, one that requires substantial knowledge.

Wrongful death statutes vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, encompassing intricate legal principles, procedural requirements, and evidentiary standards. An attorney well-versed in this area of law can meet all deadlines and comply with all court procedures and regulations.

Establishing Liability

Also, proving liability in a wrongful death case is incredibly challenging. Establishing negligence or wrongful conduct on the defendant’s part often demands a thorough investigation, meticulous evidence gathering, and strategic legal arguments. An experienced attorney has the skills and resources to conduct a comprehensive investigation, identify key witnesses, obtain relevant documentation, and build a compelling case.

Insurance Company Challenges

The defendant’s insurance company presents another challenge. Defendants and their insurance companies will vigorously contest your claim, employing aggressive tactics to minimize their liability and undermine your case. A wrongful death lawyer can defeat those tactics and seek fair compensation.

Please Contact a Wrongful Death Lawyer 

When you get legal help, you’ll have a staunch ally who will fight for the justice you and your family members deserve. A personal injury lawyer will build a compelling case backed by facts and work passionately to achieve the best possible outcome.

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