When a person has died through the fault or negligence of someone or something else, do members of his or her immediate family have any legal recourse? In most cases, the answer is yes. Every state in the union gives surviving family members the option of suing the responsible party for wrongful death. In fact, the right to bring this type of suit will often extend to distant relatives, life partners and others who stand to suffer financially in consequence.
In any such case, the responsible accident can have been of numerous types. Among other things, it might have stemmed from:
- A car accident.
- A defective product.
- Medical malpractice.
- Corporate, individual or governmental negligence.
- Malicious mischief.
- Deliberate intent.
Potential Defendants in a Wrongful Death Suit
Defendants in cases of wrongful death can run the gamut. For example, if a defective escalator should prove to have been responsible, the defendant roster could include:
- The negligent property owner.
- The escalator manufacturer.
- The company that installed the device.
- A repairman or maintenance service.
- Someone who knew of potential danger but failed to post a warning sign.
If the fatal accident occurred on government property, the list of potential offenders just became that much longer.
Wrongful Death and Economic Damages
Depending on the specifics of a wrongful death suit, survivors can generally sue for one or more of three separate types of compensation. Economic damages will often top the list. This type of reparation will cover such things as medical expenses and funeral costs along with losses having to do with:
- Medical insurance.
- Pension plans.
- Expected future earnings.
- Other goods and services previously provided by the deceased.
Wrongful Death and Non-Economic Damages
Although they can be less clear-cut than the economic variety, non-economic damages often possess a greater monetary value. In addition to compensating the survivor for pain, suffering and mental anguish, the valuation of non-economic damages will normally have to do with the loss of:
- Care, guidance, protection, nurturing and training.
- Love and society.
- Consortium when the plaintiff was the victim’s husband or wife.
Wrongful Death and Punitive Damages
Some states will not consider punitive damages in wrongful death suits. In those that do, it will be necessary to prove that the victim’s demise was the direct result of egregiously bad conduct or malicious intent on the defendant’s part.
Most government agencies are immune to punitive damages. However, in cases where the death of an elderly person has directly resulted from nursing home abuse, it is often possible to recover triple the normal amount of reparations.
Government Immunity From Wrongful Death Suits
Depending on the state in which the death occurred, the right to bring a suit for wrongful death can have its limits. They come in the form of exemptions for certain governmental agencies as well as for the people in their employ. On the federal level, however, the law is somewhat clearer. Recent rulings have provided immunity to defendants in wrongful death suits having to do with:
- Railroad collisions.
- Certain defective medical devices.
- Potentially harmful generic drugs when the trademarked products and labels from which they derive already enjoy FDA approval.
Wrongful Death and the Statute of Limitations
It is vital to bring a suit for wrongful death in a timely manner. Although most states set the cutoff point at two years following the victim’s demise, a few cap the statute of limitations at no more than one year from the date of death.
As with all rules, exceptions will commonly surface. These generally involve cases in which:
- The plaintiff has a mental disability.
- The plaintiff was a minor at the time of the victim’s death.
- The death was the result of an intentional act or deliberate fraud.
Instead of counting passage of time from the date on which the wrongful death occurred, some states prefer to click the stopwatch on the date of the harm’s discovery. It is not unusual for years to pass before survivors come to realize that misdiagnosis, failure, negligence or misbehavior on the part of another person or entity was the true cause of the victim’s death.
Here too, there can be limits. In wrongful death cases involving such things as faulty construction, malpractice or product liability, some jurisdictions will limit the allowable time between date of death and date of discovery. For example, a state might allow you to institute a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the discovery, but only if that discovery occurs within five years of the time of the harm’s infliction.
Getting Help with Your Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death case is rarely simple, but if the suit is handled correctly, the damage awards can be great. The injury attorneys at Weiner Law Group understand your heartache, and we will use our experience in wrongful death suits to obtain for you the greatest possible reward. Don’t suffer any longer than you must. Call 702-202-0500 and speak with an injury attorney at Weiner Law Group today.