In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documented over 200,955 wrongful deaths resulting from unintentional injuries. The number of deaths resulting from unintentional injuries is a growing concern considering that CDC also reported over 24.8 million cases of accidental injuries in 2020 alone.
Wrongful death accidents happen for various reasons and can be caused by many different parties. If you have recently lost a loved one in an accident, you might be wondering what legal actions you may take in such circumstances.
In this blog post, we’ll answer that question. This piece covers everything you need to know about the responsibilities of wrongful death lawyers and how they can help you.
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A wrongful death case is a legal claim filed by the representative of the deceased person. Representatives could be from the surviving family members or a surviving spouse if the victim is married.
Depending on the state where you live, the court may require that the representative be outlined in the victim’s estate. In other cases, a surviving relative is sufficient to stand as the victim’s representative.
Filing a wrongful death case allows the victim’s surviving loved ones to receive compensation for their losses. The losses could be financial, like the loss of income or the deceased person’s support. They might also be non-economic damages, such as the loss of companionship or love.
Taking legal action against the responsible party can be complicated. Wrongful death is an intricate aspect of personal injury law, and the laws governing these claims vary by state.
Retaining the assistance of an experienced wrongful death lawyer is vital if you want to file a wrongful death case.
Wrongful death lawyers are specialized legal professionals experienced in handling wrongful death cases. The laws surrounding wrongful death cases are intricate and require expert legal advice.
A small mistake during the claims process could prevent you from recovering the compensation you deserve. Here’s what you can expect from your wrongful death attorney:
The first step when taking a wrongful death action is investigating the accident. Your wrongful death lawyer will review all the evidence you’ve recovered and gather information from witnesses to get a clearer picture of what happened.
This includes reviewing the police report, speaking to insurance companies, and examining any surveillance footage that might be available.
In some instances, your lawyer might require the help of other experts, such as an accident reconstructionist, to accurately depict the events that led to the victim’s death.
Depending on the nature of the case, the lawyer reviewing your case may also recommend other legal routes. For example, if a defective product caused the victim’s death, you might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
If the death was caused by medical negligence, you might be able to file a medical malpractice claim. Your lawyer will evaluate all your legal options and help you choose the best course of action.
Your lawyer can also recommend a survival action if your loved one didn’t die immediately after the accident. A survival action allows you to recover damages on behalf of the victim for the pain and suffering they endured before their death.
Ultimately, hiring an experienced wrongful death lawyer allows you to expand your legal options and improve your chances of acquiring the compensation you deserve.
Once the investigation and consultation end, your lawyer will help you establish a solid wrongful death claim. This includes calculating the damages you’ve suffered and drafting a demand letter to the at-fault party.
The demand letter will outline your legal claim and the compensation you’re owed for the victim’s death. In many cases, the at-fault party will agree to negotiate a settlement once they receive the demand letter.
Identifying who’s liable for the death of your loved ones is critical to the success of your claim. In some cases, there might be more than one responsible party.
For example, the other driver might be liable if your loved one died in a motor vehicle accident. But if a defective tire caused the accident, the tire manufacturer might also share liability.
In other cases, the liable party might be a company responsible for workplace death. Or the liable party might be a government entity, such as the municipality responsible for maintaining an inoperative road.
Your lawyer will help you identify all the potentially responsible parties and gather evidence to support your claim against them.
Wrongful death lawsuits may be necessary if the at-fault party refuses to negotiate a settlement. Filing a lawsuit is a complicated legal process, and it’s vital to have an experienced lawyer by your side.
Your lawyer will help you traverse the complexities of the legal system and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.
The damages you can recover in wrongful death cases are similar to that of other personal injury cases. Namely, these are general, special, and punitive damages.
Special damages or economic damages are quantifiable losses from the victim’s end. The overall amount of special damages you can recover will largely depend on the sum of the out-of-pocket expenses you or your party incurred.
In a wrongful death case, examples of special damages include:
In contrast, general damages or non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify. Unlike special damages, general damages are challenging to quantify or even prove. Consulting with an experienced attorney can help you gather the shreds of evidence needed to prove subjective damages.
These are the losses that don’t have an exact financial value and include:
In extremely egregious cases, representatives of wrongful death victims may also be able to recover punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for their wrongful actions and deter similar behavior in the future.
Various accidents and unintentional acts cause wrongful death cases. Identifying the cause of your loved one’s death is necessary to solidify your wrongful death case and determine who might be held liable. In the following sections, we’ll uncover some of the most common causes of wrongful death cases.
In 2018, a Johns Hopkins study revealed that medical malpractice is the third-leading cause of death nationwide. With over 250,000 reported medical malpractice death cases, it’s no wonder why.
Other reports also state that the overall medical malpractice death cases could reach 400,000 or higher when undocumented cases are included.
Medical malpractice can occur in any medical setting, from hospitals and clinics to nursing homes and doctor’s offices. Common examples of medical malpractice include:
Probably, two of the well-known causes of wrongful deaths are motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated figure of 1.3 million motor vehicle accident victims die annually worldwide.
In a separate report by the National Safety Council (NSC), the United States reported over 42,338 motor vehicle accident deaths nationwide. This is an evident increase compared to 2019’s 39,107 motor vehicle accident deaths.
Despite the whopping numbers presented in these statistics, the accident-per-population rate has significantly improved since 2002. Currently, the United States is at 12.9% compared to 2002’s 15.8%
Workplace accidents are no stranger to wrongful death cases. In 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) documented that 4,764 workers died while performing their duties.
In line with this fatality report, OSHA also released the top 10 most commonly violated industry protection standards leading to workplace deaths, and these are:
It’s crucial to take note that risk factors vary among industries. With the list provided by OSHA, it’s evident that the construction industry faces the most cases of workplace accidents and deaths.
Wrongful death cases are complex and usually need an expert’s help to win. Hiring a wrongful death attorney should be your first step in taking legal action for your loved one’s death.
When looking for the right wrongful death lawyer for your case, expertise and knowledge should be taken as a significant deciding factor. At Parker + McConkie, our team of lawyers has the expertise and skills needed to help you win your wrongful death case.
Since 1978, our law firm has been handling various wrongful death cases, from car accidents and defective products to medical malpractice. We have the years of experience and resources needed to help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.
Get in touch with us today to schedule a free legal consultation with our team of Utah wrongful death attorneys.
Call 801-845-0440 to get in touch with a member of our firm after your accident. We can review your case for free!