When a person dies or is killed due to the negligence or misconduct of another, including murder, the surviving members of the victim's family may sue for "wrongful death." Wrongful death lawyers handle cases where someone is killed, whether the person who caused the death meant to do it or not.
If a loved one dies because of someone else's actions, a wrongful death lawyer can help you understand what happened, who is responsible, whether you deserve any compensation for losing your loved one, and whether anyone should be charged with a crime.
A suit for wrongful death may only be brought by the personal representative of the decedent's estate. Every state has a civil "wrongful death statute," or set of statutes, which establish the procedures for bringing wrongful death actions. Actions for personal injury, conscious pain and suffering, or expenses incurred prior to the decedent's death are also brought by the personal representative. The damage awards from these actions belong to the estate and may pass to different parties as directed by the decedent's will.
Pecuniary, or financial, injury is the main measure of damages in a wrongful death action. Courts have interpreted "pecuniary injuries" as including the loss of support, services, lost prospect of inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses. Most laws provide that the damages awarded for a wrongful death shall be fair and just compensation for the pecuniary injuries that resulted from the decedent's death. If the distributees paid or are responsible for the decedent's funeral or medical care, they may also recover those expenses. Finally, a damage award will include interest from the date of the decedent's death.
In addition to damages for wrongful death, the distributees may be able to recover damages for personal injury to the decedent. These are called "survival actions," since the personal injury action survives the person who suffered the injury. The decedent's personal representative can bring such an action together with the wrongful death action, for the benefit of the decedent's estate.
If a loved one has dies after an accident or injury caused by the negligence or misconduct of another individual, company or entity, you may be entitled to bring a legal action for wrongful death against those responsible. Especially in light of time deadlines for filing such a lawsuit, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible, to discuss your legal rights and your potential case.