What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

By: Chuck Richardson On July 27, 2023
What is a wrongful death lawsuit

wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action brought when a person's death results from another individual or entity's negligence, recklessness, or deliberate conduct. It seeks to compensate the deceased person's family members or estate for the damages they've suffered due to the untimely death. While no monetary value can ever truly compensate for the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death claim can help mitigate the financial burdens associated with the loss and provide a sense of justice for the grieving family.

At Richardson Richardson Boudreaux, we have a tremendous amount of experience with wrongful death claims, and a wrongful death lawyer from our team would be happy to see if we can pursue a wrongful death case on your behalf. Through a wrongful death suit or a personal injury claim, we can maximize the value of your wrongful death settlement. Learn more about our services with wrongful death suits below, and give us a call to schedule a free consultation.

Legal Basis for Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The legal foundation of a wrongful death lawsuit is anchored in the fact that the deceased person would have had the right to file a personal injury lawsuit if they had survived. This right to legal recourse is essentially transferred to the deceased person's estate or family members following their death. To have a successful case, you need to meet a few criteria.

Negligence

In many wrongful death cases, the underlying cause of action is negligence. This is when the defendant's careless, reckless, or otherwise negligent actions or omissions led to the death of another person.

To establish negligence in a wrongful death claim, it must be substantiated that the defendant owed a duty of care to the departed, breached this duty, and that this breach straight off led to the person's death. Examples of negligence may include a driver texting while driving, resulting in a fatal accident, or a doctor failing to diagnose a condition properly, leading to the patient's death.

Intentional Acts

Intentional acts that result in someone's death can also form the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit. This can include actions where the defendant intentionally sought to harm the victim, such as cases of murder or assault. It's important to note that a wrongful death claim is a civil action distinct from any criminal proceedings.

It can be pursued regardless of whether the defendant is charged or convicted in criminal court. Even if there is a criminal case, you may still have the right to bring a lawsuit against the responsible party.

Wrongful Actions

In certain situations, wrongful actions resulting in death may lead to a wrongful death claim. This can include cases where the deceased was a hit-and-run accident victim, defective products leading to death, or a case where a property owner failed to provide safe premises leading to a fatal accident. Each wrongful action has its own specific set of legal considerations and requirements.

Parties Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Parties who can file a wrongful death lawsuit

Not all individuals are qualified to initiate a claim for a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has its own laws determining who can bring such a claim. In general, the following parties are typically eligible:

Surviving Spouses

In most cases, the surviving spouse of the individual who has died may file suit pursuing a wrongful death claim. They may seek compensation for loss of consortium, companionship, future financial support, and emotional distress caused by their spouse's untimely death.

Parents or Children

Parents can initiate a wrongful death claim for the loss of a minor child, and in certain cases, for the loss of an adult child. Similarly, minor children may seek compensation for the loss of a parent. This can include compensation for parental guidance, affection, and financial support loss.

Other Immediate Family Members

In some states, other immediate family members, such as siblings or grandparents who were financially dependent on the deceased, may have the right to file a wrongful death claim. The specific rules and considerations may vary depending on the state laws.

Personal Representative of the Deceased Person's Estate

If there are no immediate family members, the personal representative or executor of the departed person's estate can typically file a wrongful death lawsuit. Any damages awarded would then be distributed according to the conditions of the deceased's will or, in the unavailability of a will, in accordance with state intestacy laws.

Types of Incidents Leading To Wrongful Death Lawsuits

Types of incident leading to wrongful death lawsuits

A variety of incidents can give rise to a wrongful death lawsuit. A few common examples include:

  • Car Accidents: Negligent or reckless driving can often result in fatal accidents. These can form the basis of a wrongful death claim against the responsible driver or potentially against other responsible parties, such as the vehicle manufacturer or a government entity in charge of road maintenance.
  • Medical Malpractice: When a healthcare provider fails to provide the standard level of care leading to a patient's death, it could lead to a wrongful death claim. This can include misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or neglect in a nursing home.
  • Workplace Accidents: Fatal accidents can occur in various workplaces, especially in high-risk industries like construction or manufacturing. Employers can be held accountable if their negligence contributed to the fatal accident.
  • Product Liability: Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can be held answerable if their defective product causes a death.
  • Premises Liability: Property owners have a burden to keep their premises safe. If a person dies due to a hazardous condition on someone else's property, it can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • Intentional Acts: Intentional acts of violence, such as assault or murder, can also be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court, separate from any criminal charges the perpetrator may face.

Process of Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Process of filing a wrongful death lawsuit

Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is an intricate process that typically involves a few steps:

  1. Consultation with an Attorney: The first step is to seek the advice of a seasoned wrongful death attorney who can assess the facts of the case and advise on the legal options available.
  2. Investigation: The attorney will conduct a thorough investigation, collecting and examining evidence, speaking with witnesses, and consulting with experts.
  3. Filing the Lawsuit: If the case has merit, the attorney will file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the eligible family members or the estate of the deceased person.
  4. Discovery: During the discovery phase, both sides share evidence and information. This can involve written questions, document requests, and depositions.
  5. Negotiation and Settlement: Many wrongful death cases are settled before trial during negotiation sessions. The attorney will bargain with the defendant or their insurance company to attain a fair settlement.
  6. Trial: If a fair settlement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial. The attorney will present evidence and arguments to the jury, who will determine whether the defendant is liable and, if so, the amount of damages.

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Each state has a statute of limitations that determines the timeframe within which a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed. Oklahoma's statute of limitations on wrongful death cases is two years. There might be a few exceptions, but it is still crucial to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Neglecting to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations can lead to the loss of the right to seek compensation.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim

In a wrongful death claim, the plaintiffs can seek various types of damages, and a few examples include:

Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate the plaintiffs for the financial losses they've suffered due to the death of their loved one. This can include medical expenses incurred prior to death, funeral and burial expenses, lost earnings and benefits, and the loss of the value of services that the deceased would have provided.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages compensate the plaintiffs for the non-monetary losses associated with the demise of their loved one. This can include pain and suffering of the deceased prior to death, loss of companionship, loss of guidance, and emotional distress.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, if the defendant's actions were malicious or overly negligent, punitive damages could be granted. These are intended to penalize the defendant and deter similar conduct in the future.

How Your Wrongful Death Attorney Can Help You

How your wrongful death attorney can help you

Coping with the demise of a loved one can be one of life's most challenging experiences. It's a time of grief and mourning, and the added stress of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can feel overwhelming.

An experienced wrongful death attorney can provide much-needed support and guidance during this challenging period. They can handle all aspects of your case, allowing you to focus on healing and remembrance. Some of the ways we can help you include:

  • Comprehensive Case Evaluation: Your attorney will conduct an initial assessment of your case, providing you with a clear understanding of its potential and the possible avenues for seeking justice and compensation.
  • Investigation and Evidence Gathering: A thorough investigation is crucial to building a strong wrongful death claim. Your attorney will gather all necessary evidence, including police reports, medical records, witness testimonies, and expert consultations.
  • Understanding the Legal Process: Legal proceedings can be complex and daunting. Your attorney will provide you with guidance through each step, explaining the process in understandable terms and keeping you informed about the progress of your case.
  • Negotiation with Insurance Companies: Insurance companies often attempt to minimize the payout in wrongful death cases. Your attorney will negotiate on your behalf, using their expertise and the evidence gathered to argue for a settlement that fully compensates for your loss.
  • Preparation for Trial: Your attorney will prepare for trial if the case cannot be settled out of court. This includes gathering evidence, identifying and preparing witnesses, and formulating a compelling argument to present before the jury.
  • Representation in Court: At trial, your attorney will advocate zealously on your behalf to convince the jury of the defendant's liability and the extent of your loss.
  • Post-Trial Follow-up: After the verdict, your attorney will handle any necessary follow-up, including collection of the awarded damages and any appeals process.
  • Emotional Support: Apart from legal assistance, a wrongful death attorney is there to provide emotional support. They understand the difficulties you're going through and aim to ease your burden during this challenging time.

By hiring a wrongful death attorney, you gain a sympathetic and dedicated advocate who will stand by your side every step of the way. They have the knowledge and experience to navigate the intricacies of the legal system, so you can concentrate on honoring your loved one's memory and healing from your loss.

Contact Our Wrongful Death Attorneys at Richardson Richardson Boudreaux for a Free Consultation

Contact our wrongful death attorneys

If you've lost a loved one due to someone else's wrongful actions, know that you are not alone. Our compassionate and seasoned wrongful death attorneys at Richardson Richardson Boudreaux are here to help you through this difficult time. We are dedicated to seeking justice for your loved one and securing the compensation you need to move forward.

Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us shoulder the legal burdens while you focus on healing. It would be our honor to represent you during your time of need.

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