Wrongful death cases are heart-wrenching to deal with. Not only was your loved one taken before their time, but plaintiffs face complicated legal procedures and insurance companies trying to cut their losses.
In a wrongful death case, the executor, or personal representative of the person who died, brings forth the lawsuit. These cases can’t bring your loved one back, but they can make up for the loss and give families a sense of receiving justice.
Here are four facts you should know about wrongful death civil lawsuits.
1. Wrongful Death Lawsuits come from Different Causes
Although many states have wrongful death statutes, “wrongful death” has a wide definition. For example, Alabama’s wrongful death statute allows plaintiffs to bring cases in cases where there was a “wrongful act, omission, or negligence.”
Having such a wide statute lets plaintiffs bring wrongful death cases and receive compensation for their losses and many different types of cases, including:
- Criminal cases, such as murder and manslaughter, especially after the defendant was convicted of the crime
- Medical malpractice cases where a doctor acted improperly
- Product default claims like seat belts that don’t work properly
- Car accidents where the defendant was driving under the influence (DUI) or speeding
- Situations in which the defendant failed to meet a duty of care towards the plaintiff and involved negligence
You might be able to bring wrongful death action against someone else that caused the death of your spouse, parent, child, or sibling.
Wrongful death laws vary between states, so we recommend speaking with an experienced lawyer to understand your options moving forward.
2. The Plaintiff has the Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Case
Wrongful death is a civil case, meaning the plaintiff must prove that the defendant is the cause of the wrongful death by a preponderance of the evidence.
This is a lower standard of proof than in criminal cases, where the prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s important to prepare your case well and gather facts as soon as possible about your loved one’s death. An attorney can create a stronger argument and prove your case more effectively in court when taking early action.
3. Wrongful Death Actions must be Brought within Two Years
In Alabama, Georgia, Vermont, and Washington, DC, you must file a wrongful death claim within 2 years. This is the statute of limitations for these cases, which exists because of a few public policy reasons.
First, it encourages you to bring a case within a reasonable time period. Courts don’t like cases where the parties drag their feet. Second, witnesses may forget crucial details or documents might get lost over time.
As a plaintiff, you should be diligent in filing a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party before the statute of limitations passes. The alternative is filing too late and losing out on financial compensation that could save your family.
Contacting a wrongful death attorney early helps you file a claim within the statute of limitations to get the money your family deserves.
4. Wrongful Death Damages Cover Different Types of Expenses
Although money won’t bring back a loved one, it can help mitigate some of the hardship that comes from a loved one’s death. Courts award different types of damages in wrongful death cases.
The first type is economic damages. These damages are fairly straightforward because they ask two questions:
- What additional costs did the plaintiff incur as a result of the wrongful death
- What money would the plaintiff have received had it not been for the wrongful death?
For example, if Bob was hit by a drunk driver and taken to the hospital, his family likely has to pay for an ambulance ride and ER bills while doctors tried to save his life. They’ll also have to cover burial and funeral expenses.
Defendants also pay for lost wages, which courts review several factors to calculate in a wrongful death case.
Secondly, families receive damage awards for non-economic damages, although they are harder to quantify. These include damages for loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment, and pain and suffering.
Because it’s impossible to put a dollar figure on these damages, judges often base them on your overall economic damages.
Punitive damages are the final type of damages courts award where the defendant’s negligent actions led to the plaintiff’s death. Discouraging wrong behavior, the killer incurs additional fees your family receives as compensation.
File Wrongful Death with Experts
To obtain the highest possible settlement in court, you can’t file by yourself. Insurance companies, complicated legal procedures, and other barriers keep you from earning the amount your family deserves.
Working with an experienced wrongful death attorney can help make sure you get all forms of wrongful death compensation possible.
They may uncover more from the evidence than you originally thought, such as non-economic damages in loss of a relationship and mental illness.
If you believe your loved one’s death was wrongful, contact our wrongful death lawyers today. Call our offices at (334)-269-3230, so we can get your claim started and earn your settlement faster.