When Should You Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?
Few things in life are more devastating than the loss of a loved one. However, it’s made even worse when the death is sudden, unexpected, and the result of someone else’s negligence or oversight. You feel a sense of injustice and find it challenging to move on.
And while nothing will replace your loss in a situation like this, there are legal methods you can use to help offset some of the practical issues you’re left dealing with in the wake of a wrongful death.
When is a Wrongful Death Claim Pursued?
“When a person dies due to someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions, certain survivors are eligible to seek compensation for their loved one’s medical and funeral expenses, as well as other economic and noneconomic losses that family members suffer due to the death of the loved one, ” Oklahoma-based Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons explains.
Every state is different, so you’ll have to check the exact laws and stipulations in your area, but wrongful death cases can typically be initiated by a spouse, parent, or child when the death is caused by negligence or wrongful conduct. Common examples of wrongful death cases include motor vehicle accidents, medical malpractice, and defective products.
How You Should Proceed
You might believe you have a wrongful death case on your hands, but you need to be smart with how you proceed. Your actions in the days, weeks, and months after the incident may determine the viability of your claim.
Here are some suggestions on how to proceed:
- Understand the Burden of Proof
Wrongful death suits are the same as any other legal case. In order to hold the defendant liable, there’s a burden of proof that must be satisfied.
“So, using negligence as an example, this means showing that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care, that the defendant breached this duty, that the breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the death, and that the death caused the damages that the plaintiff is trying to recover,” AllLaw.com explains.
- Know Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim
Not just anyone can file a wrongful death claim. While it depends on state law, wrongful death claims are typically filed by the representative of the estate of the deceased individual. This is generally a spouse or child, as outlined in the deceased’s last will and testament. If there’s no person named, then the court may name a personal representative.
- Avoid Accepting Offers Without Legal Counsel
In cases where there’s obvious negligence, don’t be surprised if a legal representative or insurance company of the presumed-defendant reaches out to you. They’ll offer you a settlement and try to pressure you into quickly accepting it.
As a rule of thumb, never accept an offer without legal counsel. A settlement may be your best option, but a wrongful death attorney should at least be consulted for advice.
- Keep Expense Records
It can take quite a while for a wrongful death claim to get worked out. In the meantime, you’ll encounter your fair share of expenses. Be sure to keep meticulous records and receipts so they can serve as evidence in the impending case.
Examples of expense records include medical bills, funeral expenses, partner’s income statement (if applicable), marriage contract, etc. Even if you’re unsure of whether you need something, hold on to it. You can always throw it away at a later date.
Putting it All Together
No matter of money or legal justice will be able to fill the hole you have in your heart after the sudden death of a loved one. Having said that, there are some practical needs that a wrongful death claim can help satisfy. If you think you may have a claim, do your due diligence and reach out to the right people for expert guidance and help.