Not every case of medical malpractice or accident leads to injury. Some people are fortunate enough to recover or walk away from situations that could have ended badly. Others may actually lose their lives because of someone else’s mistake or lack of diligence.
Family members of the deceased person may feel like they have no options, and many may depend on the income, stability and abilities that person provided for the family. Because loss of life has a huge impact on the lives of family members still living, it is possible to file a lawsuit claiming wrongful death.
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and suspect that the loss of life was directly caused by the action or negligence of another person, you may be able to receive financial compensation by filing a wrongful death suit. Here’s what you should know about wrongful death claims and how they can benefit your family.
What is Wrongful Death?
If a person dies as a direct result of the actions of another person, the family can sue for wrongful death. Generally, wrongful death applies when the deceased would still be alive today if the other party had not been involved.
This doctrine applies to accidental harm and intentional harm—including murder. Civil and criminal cases are different. Even if a person is found to be not guilty of murder, the family can still sue for wrongful death in a civil case.
What Factors Are Considered in Wrongful Death Claims?
Wrongful death claims are serious, and they require substantial evidence in order to stand up to scrutiny in court. Wrongful death claims will usually hold up if there is evidence of:
If death was caused because the other party did not fulfill their responsibilities in a particular area, your case will stand. For example, if a child died because a neighbor did not fence their backyard pool, this could be seen as negligence on the part of the pool owner.
Other types of negligence include not providing safety equipment in amusement park rides, failing to provide routine medical checks for patients, not having enough staff to handle a crowd, failure to properly interpret medical examinations to detect a deadly condition or improper filing of personal records. Your lawyer can help you discern where negligence may have impacted your case in particular.
Breach of Duty
Breach of duty usually refers to medical cases. Doctors and hospitals have a duty to provide a specific level of service to their patients. When that level of service is not met and causes death, a wrongful death suit is warranted. For example, if a doctor delivers a baby without washing his hands and the baby contracts a deadly infection as a result, this is a breach of duty.
However, breach of duty extends beyond medical cases. For example, a person driving a car has a duty to help ensure the safety of other people on the road. When a person chooses to drink and drive, causing a deadly car accident, then they have not followed through with this duty.
Finally, it’s essential that you are able to take your evidence of negligence and breach of duty and show how those actions directly caused the death of your loved one. In some cases, causation is obvious. The example above of the drunk driver, for instance, shows a clear path—if the person had not been intoxicated and operating a vehicle, a deadly accident might not have occurred.
Other cases can be more complex. For example, if your loved one died from an infection after a surgery and there is evidence that the surgical room had not been cleaned properly, you will have to decidedly show that the lack of clean room directly caused the deadly infection. You’ll have to rule out other surgical complications, health history and even other sources of the same infection.
This is an area where your lawyer can be a valuable asset to you. The clarity of connection is one that requires extensive knowledge of the injury, situation and the law.
What Compensation is Available?
The final part of your case is knowing what damages you should receive based on the death of your family member. You’ll need to provide quantifiable financial losses to claim in court. Common claims include:
- Funeral and burial expenses—these can be quite steep for families to cover, especially without any preparation.
- Hospital, ambulance and rehabilitation costs—some individuals spend days or even weeks in the hospital before passing away.
- Potential income—this is a big one for families. If the person who died was the main provider, the loss of income can be hard on the surviving members of the family.
- Counseling—many family members may need grief counseling or suffer depression and anxiety as a result.
These are just a few of the claims. In some cases, punitive damages and additional personal injury claims might be filed. Your lawyer can help you make a list with the needed evidence.
If you have lost a loved one because of the actions of another party, contact us at Otorowski Morrow & Golden, PLLC. We can help you get the representation you need during this trying time.