In the instance that a person is killed due to the negligence of another person or party, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed in civil court. There is some variation among the states with regard to who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, surviving parents, children and other financially dependent individuals of the decedent (one who died) may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
People, corporations, companies and governmental entities can be legally liable for a wrongful death due to negligence on their behalf. Negligence is a civil tort which refers to a person or party failing to act as a reasonable person (or group) would act in a specific situation. Some types of wrongful death lawsuits involve passengers who are killed in a car accident due to the fault of a negligent driver, accidents in the workplace that result in an employee’s death due to negligence on behalf of the workplace, or medical malpractice that results in the death of a patient due to the medical provider’s negligence. A wrongful death lawsuit is filed in civil court as opposed to criminal court, therefore a wrongful death lawsuit is not meant to find the liable party as guilty of a criminal act. The goal of a wrongful death lawsuit is for the plaintiff (the party which filed the lawsuit) to receive compensation for the loss of life.
Compensation for a wrongful death lawsuit is usually based on the surviving party’s losses; funeral expenses, lost wages from the person who died, and loss of companionship. Many states require the individual who is filing the wrongful death lawsuit to fall under the category of a “real party of interest”. State laws vary as to what constitutes real parties of interest but the underlying factor is that the individual must suffer damages (loss or injuries) due to the loss of life from the wrongful death. In every state, immediate family members are able to file wrongful death lawsuits. Immediate family members are parents, children (including adopted children) and spouses. Some states allow more distant family members to file wrongful death lawsuits, such as siblings and grandparents. This is often on a case by case basis and can be allowed especially if the sibling or grandparent was primarily responsible for raising and taking care of the decedent.
Some states allow life and/or domestic partners to recover damages from a wrongful death lawsuit. A “putative spouse”, or an individual who could prove in good faith (sincere belief without malice) that they were married to the decedent, may sue for compensation. Additionally, financially dependent individuals may sure for recovery.
Some states will also allow parents of a deceased fetus to sue for wrongful death compensation. This law greatly varies throughout states. Some states even require that the fetus had been alive before its death. Therefore, it is best to refer to your state’s laws and guidelines. A personal injury lawyer Orange County residents rely on can advise you further.
All individuals who suffer financially due to the wrongful death of someone may sue for compensation. The loss of the decedent’s care, patronage, and/or financial support allows an individual to sue for recovery even if they are not related to the decedent either by blood or marriage. If you believe you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you should look obtaining legal representation that will assist you in recovering compensation.
It is always necessary to make sure you file a wrongful death claim within the Statute of Limitations. Many states have a Statute of Limitations to file a wrongful death lawsuit of two years from the date of death or incident which caused the death. It is wise to meet with a lawyer to check your state’s guidelines. If the Statute of Limitations has run, a wrongful death lawsuit can no longer be filed.
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