Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

No one is ever fully prepared to cope with the loss of a loved one. The days and weeks that follow can be the most trying times of your life, especially if your loved one’s death was the result of negligence or misconduct. Under these circumstances, you may be entitled to compensation and receive the justice that you and your family deserve by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

A death is classified as a wrongful death when a person is killed because of another party’s negligence or misconduct. Those who were dependent on or were a beneficiary of the deceased may be entitled to damages.

Every state in the country has some form of wrongful death law with varying degrees of complexity. In the immediate aftermath of a death, a wrongful death lawsuit may not seem like a pressing matter. But unfortunately, if a wrongful death lawsuit isn’t filed within a specific time period, you and your family could risk losing your right to compensation for your damages.

Common Types of Wrongful Death Claims:

Transportation Accident

  • Aviation Accident — Fatal plane and helicopter crashes can occur for a wide variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes include pilot error, mechanical failure, maintenance error, negligence and design flaws, any of which are grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Bus Accident — Bus accident victims and their families are eligible to file for wrongful death damages against bus drivers and bus companies in the event of a bus part failure, operator negligence, negligent supervision, faulty maintenance or a design flaw is found to be a factor in the fatal accident.
  • Train Crash — Victims of train crashes can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the entity responsible for the crash. This includes the rail company, light rail transit company, or the city where the accident happened (if applicable).

Traumatic Brain Injury

It has been estimated that approximately 53,000 people die every year from traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Some of the most common causes of TBI include motor vehicle accidents and other struck by/against events. If these events were the result of negligence by another party, it is in your best interest to consult with a wrongful death attorney to discuss your options.

Pharmaceutical Product Catastrophic Injury

A pharmaceutical product can cause wrongful death if the product is defective, not correctly labeled, or not safely manufactured. In other circumstances, pharmaceutical products can cause adverse reactions when used with other products. Pharmaceutical companies are required to thoroughly test their products and warn consumers about any potential dangers associated with their products. If people lose their lives over negligence, breach of warranty or a defective product, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed.

Medical Device Catastrophic Injury

Much like pharmaceutical products, medical device manufacturers are required to thoroughly test their devices and warn consumers of any dangers. If consumers lose their lives due to a medical device failure, their estate can sue for damages if the medical device manufacturer failed to adequately test the device or provided insufficient warnings about the device.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Compensation

Damages stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit fall into two broad categories. The first are damages experienced from the moment the negligent action occurred until the time of death. In a truck accident, for example, this category of damages would cover the time from the start of the accident until the victim is pronounced dead of his or her catastrophic injuries. Medical expenses, the victim’s pain and suffering, lost wages, funeral and burial expenses would all fall into this category.

The second category of damages stemming from a wrongful death covers financial losses experienced by the victim’s dependents and/or beneficiaries. This includes projected future earnings from the time of the accident until the victim’s anticipated retirement.

In addition to the loss of income and support, often the largest aspect of a client’s recovery is for personal losses. The particular items of recovery vary from state to state, but where authorized by the law of the state where the lawsuit is filed, we generally seek compensation for each surviving heir’s grief, mental suffering, and loss of the decedent’s comfort, society, love, affection and companionship.

Why Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney?

Although it can seem overwhelming to think about filing a wrongful death lawsuit after the loss of a loved one, hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney will allow you to focus your energy on the healing process. It is also the most effective way to hold any responsible parties accountable for the wrongful death and ensure that you and your family are awarded fair compensation. The defense attorneys are already working very hard to protect their clients’ interests, so the sooner you get a proven and established team on your side, the better off you’ll be.

Wrongful Death Rights Explained

The Initial Steps

When you hire wrongful death attorneys, you are hiring a law firm that will act as a team working closely with you and your family for some time to come. You should hire a firm with whom you feel comfortable because they will be guiding you and your family through a difficult time. The firm should be one which has been there before and knows the ropes – one that has successfully handled many similar cases. That firm must also be able to bear all of the considerable up-front costs necessary for the team of lawyers, paralegals, clerks and experts necessary to prepare and successfully litigate your case.

There are a number of firms which possess these qualities. Perhaps the most important decision for the surviving family is to choose the firm which best suits its particular needs.

Dedicated group of attorneys | Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C.

There are several actions a wrongful death law firm must accomplish as soon as it begins working on the case:

  • Ensure that the Personal Representative for the estate has been appointed and that the probate estate has been opened whenever required
  • Determine which individual and/or entity may be at fault
  • The wrongful death attorney may also have a choice as to whether to file in federal or state court, and thus is able to select the more advantageous forum.
  • Determine which “notice” provisions are required
  • Develop a discovery strategy

Selecting the Jurisdiction and Choice of Law for Filing the Wrongful Death Claim

The first consideration in a case is to determine which courts are legally empowered to hear the case. These courts are said to have “jurisdiction” over the causes of action and the parties. The wrongful death attorney looks at all the states that could hear the case and selects the state in which the resultant law will most favor the surviving family’s interests. The wrongful death attorney must balance the applicable states’ laws, the profiles of the judges who might hear the case, and the jury makeup of the various courts in which the suit may be filed. Only after weighing and balancing these factors can an appropriate decision be made as to where the action should be filed. Then, of course, the attorney must scrupulously follow whatever detailed procedural rules apply to the chosen jurisdiction.

The Preparation and Prosecution of the Claim or Suit

Traditionally, defendants settle claims favorably to a claimant only when they must; they tend to hold onto a claim as long as possible in order to keep their money actively earning interest for them and in anticipation of possibly a less expensive settlement later. Optimum settlements usually occur because the defendants recognize that your law firm will be ready to conduct an aggressive, vigorous trial if they do not come to reasonable settlement terms.

To counter this tendency, the attorneys representing the claimant must maintain constant pressure on the defendants. This is done by successful preparation and prosecution of the claim.

Damages to Which the Personal Representative and Estate Are Entitled

Damages arising from a wrongful death fall basically into four categories: The first is the economic loss suffered by the estate or heirs. The second category is non-economic loss, which may include grief, anguish and loss of society and companionship that a surviving family member suffers. Thirdly, there may be survival damages that the decedent suffered after the accident but before they died. These include the pre-impact terror experienced (aircraft accidents), all pain and suffering, the value of a loss of a life, and any pre-death economic losses incurred as a result of the accident. Finally, there are punitive damages. Punitive damages are available in cases when the court and jury, based upon all the facts and circumstances, decide that the defendant’s conduct is of such a reprehensible, malicious nature that the defendant should be punished economically, and thus also serve as a warning to all other corporations and individuals not to commit similar acts.

As discussed in the section above concerning jurisdiction, a wrongful death attorney will research the various state laws to enable the attorney to decide which state’s applicable laws favor the surviving family members’ claims. Below is an explanation of these four areas of damages. (Some states allow recovery in all four categories, others restrict recovery to only one or more of the categories.)

Economic Loss
Loss of support
Loss of inheritance
Loss of services
Funeral and burial expenses

Non-Economic Loss
Loss of society and companionship
Grief and anguish
Loss of consortium

Survival Damages
Pre-impact mental suffering
Conscious pain and suffering
Hedonic loss is compensation for the “loss of enjoyment of life.”
Pre-death economic losses

Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are a monetary penalty deemed necessary to punish and deter a defendant and other potential wrongdoers from committing the same or similar willful, malicious or intentional acts. The amount of punitive damages is usually based, in part, on the net worth of an individual or company. These damages can, and often do, amount to many millions of dollars against wealthy companies in the rare cases when such damages are awarded.

The respective defendants and their insurance companies will most certainly be represented by legal experts and claims adjusters with years of experience in just this area of law. They will have the research staff, nationwide databases, the ability to conduct legal research in all of the fifty states, and the financial means to vigorously defend your case for their own ends. Baum Hedlund can and will, given the opportunity, level the playing field and do the same for you.