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What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that holds another party responsible for the death of another. A wrongful death lawsuit is like a personal injury case but instead of the injury victim filing the lawsuit, a personal representative stands in the place of the deceased person to recover compensation from the fatal accident.

How Is Wrongful Death Different From Personal Injury?

In a personal injury lawsuit, personal injury attorneys represent the injury victim to recover damages from the negligent party. For example, in a motorcycle accident, the injury victim could recover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering if the other driver negligently caused the accident.

In a wrongful death accident, if the victim is no longer alive to take their case to a personal injury lawyer, who would file the claim? Wrongful death statutes were created to allow the family members of an injury victim to recover compensation after a loved one died in a fatal accident. A personal representative steps into the place of the deceased and files the lawsuit.

For example, in a fatal truck accident, a representative could file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold the responsible party accountable for breaching their duty of care. After a jury trial or wrongful death settlement, any compensation received could go to the surviving spouse, domestic partner, children, or other beneficiaries.

A wrongful death lawsuit can involve fatal injuries caused by negligence, including defective products, pedestrian accidents, motor vehicle accidents, or other wrongful acts.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case?

The deceased is not able to file a wrongful death lawsuit so someone else has to act in their place. Depending on the state, a personal representative or surviving family member can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. A personal representative is generally appointed by the court. A wrongful death legal team can help you begin the process of filing a claim after the death of a loved one.

How Much Can You Claim From Wrongful Death?

The financial compensation received in a civil lawsuit is known as “damages.” The amount of money for wrongful death damages depends on the individual case. Damages can include losses to the deceased and losses suffered by the surviving family members caused by the loss of a loved one, including:

  • Medical bills (for medical expenses before death)
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of financial support
  • Loss of benefits
  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of services

Punitive damages may also be available, in limited situations.

In some states, there is a cap on the total amount of noneconomic damages that you can recover in your wrongful death claim. Even if a jury awards an amount higher than the damages cap, the judge can reduce the noneconomic damages awarded. Talk to your wrongful death lawyer about damages caps in a wrongful death suit.

How Can a Wrongful Death Attorney Help?

A law firm that understands wrongful death law can help you navigate the process and give you a better idea of what to expect after the decedent dies because of medical malpractice, a car accident, or a workplace accident. An accident attorney can also explain your legal options during these difficult times. There is only a limited amount of time to take legal action in a wrongful death lawsuit under the statute of limitations.

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