1. What is the legal definition of a wrongful death lawsuit?
Generally, a wrongful death claim is a type of lawsuit that certain surviving family members of a deceased individual can bring against a party whose wrongful act caused the death. The defendant in a wrongful death case may have caused the death intentionally, through carelessness or because of negligence. Certain cases that involve dangerous products may not require family members to prove wrongful conduct in order to receive damages. This is known as strict liability.
2. Who is eligible to recover compensation in a wrongful death claim?
Surviving spouses can bring a wrongful death claim against the party responsible for their spouse’s death. If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased person’s children are then able to file this type of case. If there is no surviving spouse or surviving children, the parents of the deceased individual are permitted to make a wrongful death claim. Without a surviving spouse, surviving children or surviving parents, it is possible for a different family member or unrelated person to be appointed as the administrator of the deceased’s estate to file a lawsuit on the estate’s behalf.
3. Is it possible to file a wrongful death claim if the deceased person never earned an income?
It is possible. Even if the deceased individual was unemployed, he or she could have contributed in some other way to the family’s welfare. A housewife, for example, does not have a job outside of the home, but she provides services, guidance and care to her family in quantifiable ways. In addition, wrongful deaths can also be filed on behalf of minor children or other family members who did not earn any kind of living at the time.
4. Can a person file a wrongful death claim to recover compensation for the pain and suffering a deceased individual endured?
Yes. A deceased person’s family can recover compensation for the pain and suffering the individual experienced before death occurred.
5. What happens if an individual dies before being able to file a personal injury lawsuit?
It all depends on whether the person died due to the injuries or from unrelated causes. If the individual who is hurt in an accident dies because of the injuries that resulted from the accident, that person’s heirs may be able to recover damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if the individual with a personal injury claim dies because of unrelated factors, the case could be brought by the administrator or representative of the deceased’s estate.
6. What types of damages are available in a wrongful death lawsuit?
Under normal circumstances, the following damages could be recovered in a wrongful death action:
- Medical and funeral expenses associated with the death
- The deceased’s lost future wages
- Loss of the deceased’s benefits such as pension and health insurance
- Loss of any inheritance
- Loss of guidance to the family
- Loss of consortium for the surviving spouse
- Pain and suffering of the deceased person.
7. What is the difference between civil and criminal cases against individuals who played a role in a wrongful death?
A civil case typically involves a disagreement over the rights and duties that people and businesses owe each other in a legal sense. However, a criminal case develops when the government decides to punish a person for a criminal act. The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case, and the penalty can include jail time. In a civil case, a losing defendant usually must pay a monetary judgment, which is often covered by insurance.
8. What are the costs of filing a case?
In many instances, attorneys may agree to take a wrongful death case on a contingency fee basis. This means that an hourly rate will not be charged for the lawyer’s services; instead, a percentage of any recovery or settlement will be used to compensate the attorney. The Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, traditionally pays the expenses of the claim up front and waits for the conclusion of the case before reimbursement occurs. The law makes it clear that disbursements are the client’s responsibility. When a case is successful, the disbursements are paid out of the proceeds of the claim when it has reached its conclusion.
9. How long can I expect my wrongful death claim to last?
Most cases, including wrongful death claims, are settled before a trial ever happens. Some cases get settled before a lawsuit is even filed. Other claims may be settled during litigation or just minutes before a trial is scheduled to begin. If a trial does take place, the case could last years. It’s important to realize before filing a wrongful death claim that there is no guarantee of quick results. However, proper preparation of a case can make it more likely that a full and fair settlement will be reached before you ever set foot in court.
10. I have more questions about wrongful death claims. How can I get answers?
Feel free to contact the Law Offices of Scott C. Gottlieb & Associates, LLP, at your convenience. We’re happy to answer any questions and discuss the details of your case. We will review your potential wrongful death claim at no cost to you. You can reach us at (315) 314-5390 or (877) 713-8573, or use our online form.