Losing a loved one suddenly in a wrongful death accident can turn the life of the victim’s family upside down. It may feel overwhelming, but you must start the legal process as soon as possible.
Hiring a wrongful death attorney to investigate the accident, gather evidence, and establish liability can help your family fight for justice and compensation. A New York wrongful death lawyer can guide you through the complex maze of legal processes and work toward securing financial compensation for the losses that ensue from the unexpected death of your family member.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
In the throes of grief, it is difficult to comprehend the legal terminology that applies to the situation leading to your loved one’s death terms like wrongful death. This pertains to a case in which a person loses their life due to the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company, or entity.
In such cases, the victim’s surviving relatives may be eligible for monetary compensation. While no amount of money could ever replace or undo the harrowing loss of a loved one in a tragic accident, it can provide financial security for the family and justice against the parties responsible.
A wrongful death claim is a personal injury lawsuit you file when someone dies due to another party’s negligence or intentional act. It provides a pathway for your family to seek justice and compensation to cover the unexpected financial burdens that follow the death of your loved one.
Proving Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim
In a wrongful death claim, you must show the defendant’s negligence in their actions or inaction. As the plaintiff in a wrongful death case, you must prove how the defendant caused your loved one’s death and, in turn, why they are responsible for your losses.
The evidence must first show that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased, such as a driver’s duty to adhere to traffic laws, a doctor’s duty to provide competent medical care, or a company’s duty to ensure a safe working environment.
You will then need to prove that the defendant failed this duty, known as a breach of the duty of care. This violation could be an action or a failure to act when necessary, such as a driver running a red light or a doctor failing to diagnose a treatable condition.
The claim must finally demonstrate that this breach of duty resulted in the fatality, such as a driver crashing into your loved one or a doctor’s missed diagnosis leading to their death. Establishing these elements of negligence usually requires collecting tangible evidence, credible witnesses, and expert testimonies.
Every wrongful death case is unique and is subject to the specific laws of each state. Professional assistance from an experienced wrongful death attorney can make a difference in the case and its outcome.
An attorney in a wrongful death claim gathers necessary documentation, establishes negligence, expedites legal procedures, negotiates settlements, and, if necessary, represents your family in court. By entrusting an experienced lawyer with your claim, they can handle your case while you focus on grieving and healing from the loss of your loved one.
Who Can Bring Forward a Wrongful Death Claim?
You may wonder who can bring a wrongful death claim to court. While this may vary depending on the laws of your state, most commonly, a representative of the victim’s estate will bring forward the claim. This representative is often an immediate family member, such as a surviving spouse, child, or, especially in the case where the deceased is a minor, a parent.
The standing varies in each state, but some states may allow a life partner, financial dependent, or distant family member to bring the case forward. In some rare cases, anyone who suffers financially due to the death can file a wrongful death suit. If the beneficiaries are minors, an adult guardian may file the suit on their behalf.
How State Laws Differ in Wrongful Death Cases
Laws surrounding wrongful death cases vary widely by state. While some states only allow a personal representative of the deceased’s estate to bring the lawsuit, other states may permit extended family members or anyone who suffers financially from the death to file a claim. The differences do not end there; states also vary regarding the amount of compensation and types of damages that a claimant may receive.
For these reasons, call a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible to understand the rules and regulations that apply in your state and your case. An attorney can guide you through the process, keeping in mind the various deadlines and statutes of limitations that apply to your claim.
Challenges That Can Arise in a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim can lead to numerous challenges. These complexities can further add to the emotional drain on your family, making it even more beneficial to have an attorney aid in the process.
One of the significant hurdles in a wrongful death claim is establishing the responsible party’s negligence or intentional actions that led to the death. Gathering sufficient and persuasive evidence can be a daunting task. As time passes, it may be difficult to locate relevant information and witnesses, and important evidence is at risk of destruction or alteration, making the case increasingly difficult to prove.
Disagreements among family members can also pose a challenge. When the interests of multiple parties are in focus, disputes over the claim’s direction or the distribution of the potential recovery can arise. This can delay the legal process and possibly affect the success of the claim.
Additionally, insurance companies or defendants may refuse to accept liability or offer a settlement amount that does not adequately compensate for the losses you incurred due to the death.
How a Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Manage These Challenges
Retaining an experienced wrongful death attorney can alleviate these challenges. An attorney can gather and preserve critical evidence promptly and efficiently, manage disputes among family members discreetly, and negotiate with insurance companies to obtain a fair settlement.
They can also navigate through the complexities of statutes of limitations, procedural and filing requirements, and other legal obligations. An attorney’s assistance becomes particularly instrumental if the case reaches the trial stage. They can represent your interests, strategize the trial proceedings, present the evidence, cross-examine the defense witnesses, and argue for the rightful compensatory and punitive damages.
The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience, and dealing with a wrongful death lawsuit can add to the stress. It’s prudent to allow a skilled attorney to shoulder the legal burden while you focus on healing.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A wrongful death lawsuit occurs when settlement negotiations fail to result in a fair agreement. The process requires proving the same elements as the wrongful death claim. A plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages through the court system.
When a wrongful death lawsuit becomes necessary, an attorney ensures the process is as smooth and stress-free as possible. They can draft and file court documents, conduct discovery, hire expert witnesses, prepare for trial, and advocate for your rights in court. They are with you every step of the way to make sure they tell your loved one’s story and fight for justice against the parties responsible for your loved one’s death.
Wrongful Death Damages
In a wrongful death claim, you may seek different types of damages to lift the financial burden resulting from the death of your loved one. These damages can include loss of income, medical bills, funeral expenses, loss of companionship, and mental anguish. Determining a fair and accurate amount for these damages involves considering both tangible and intangible losses.
How an Attorney Can Calculate Damages
A wrongful death attorney can calculate these damages and work toward obtaining the maximum compensation the law entitles you to. They can work with financial experts to figure out the long-term financial loss, considering factors such as the deceased’s age, earning potential, and health and the financial circumstances of their heirs.
Survival Action Versus Wrongful Death Claims
While both claims arise due to a person’s death, a survival action claim differs from a wrongful death claim.
A survival action seeks to compensate the deceased person’s estate for damages that the deceased could have recovered had they survived. For instance, if a loved one survives the immediate accident but eventually succumbs to their injuries, a survival action would allow the estate to claim damages for your loved one’s pain and suffering during the time they were alive following the accident.
The Difference Between Survival Action and Wrongful Death Claims
With a survival action, the estate can recover damages for the pain and suffering and medical expenses the deceased incurred before their death. In contrast, a wrongful death claim seeks to compensate the survivors for their losses arising because of the death of their loved one.
How a Lawyer Can Pursue All Avenues of Compensation
An experienced attorney can advise which type of claim is most suitable for your situation and ensure that you fight for all the compensation you may be eligible for. They can guide you through either or both processes, depending on the circumstances of the wrongful death case, and fight for your right to fair compensation.
When Should You Call a Lawyer for Help Following the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?
Recovering from the shock of losing a loved one is a journey. Taking legal action against the parties responsible, however, should occur as soon as possible. Hiring an attorney promptly following your loved one’s wrongful death can help ensure that you do not lose vital evidence and that your claim filing is in line with the statute of limitations in your state.
Seek Justice Following the Loss of a Loved One in a Wrongful Death Accident
An attorney plays a vital role in guiding grieving families through the legal system. They can determine the value of your claim, handle negotiations with insurance companies, and take the case to trial if necessary.
The loss of a loved one due to another’s negligence is life-altering. While no amount of money can bring back your loved one, it can help you tide over financial difficulties and bring some semblance of justice.
Contact a personal injury lawyer in New york to discuss the circumstances leading to your loved one’s death and what rights and legal options you may be eligible for in seeking compensation.
Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.