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For hundreds of years, wrongful death laws did not exist in our country. Under common law, any right to a personal injury claim was lost when the injured individual died. This often left dependents and beneficiaries with huge medical bills, a significant loss of income, and other financial losses, not to mention the deep emotional loss of a loved one.
To correct this injustice, individual states have enacted wrongful death statutes. These laws allow for dependents and beneficiaries (i.e. a partner, children, other next of kin) to sue the negligent party responsible for their loved one’s death. Because each state has enacted wrongful death statutes independent of one another, the laws in each state vary. Wrongful death statutes also vary based on the nature of a case.
Every wrongful death statute includes a statute of limitations, which restricts the time between the wrongful death and the time legal action is taken. In a non-fatal personal injury case, a statute of limitations usually begins when the injury occurs. In a wrongful death case, the statute of limitations typically starts at the time of death. There are some situations where the statute of limitations may be extended based on circumstance. For example, in some case, the statute of limitations in a wrongful death case may begin at the time the negligence or wrongful action was discovered.
Wrongful death statutes allow the aggrieved dependants and beneficiaries to seek compensation for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the wrongful death. The plaintiff has the right to seek compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs. Non-economic damages are related to the pain and suffering of survivors — for example, loss of consortium, emotional suffering, and the like.
Wrongful death statutes also place a limitation on the amount of money that can be awarded to the plaintiff in a wrongful death case. In many states, wrongful death statutes reflect concern about the right to non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are often capped at a certain amount, thus limiting the amount of compensation the plaintiff can seek for pain and suffering. Some states, such as New York, do not place caps on the damages one can receive in a wrongful death case. However, attorney’s fees may be capped in wrongful death lawsuits, limiting the percentage of the award that goes to the plaintiff’s attorney.
If you would like to learn more about the wrongful death statutes that apply to your case, we would like the opportunity to help. Please contact the law office of Oshman & Mirisola, LLP to learn more about your legal rights and options in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Wrongful Death Legal Rights
When an individual is killed as a result of another individual’s negligence or wrongdoing it is called wrongful death. When a loved one is fatally injured, the effects on family and friends can be devastating. Through a wrongful death lawsuit, aggrieved family members have a legal right to seek compensation for their losses and suffering. All 50 states have wrongful death statutes which allow aggrieved beneficiaries and dependants to seek compensation for the death of a loved one from the negligent party.
For decades, the states did not recognize wrongful death legal rights. It was believed that when a person died, all rights to a legal claim also died. This left many spouses, children, and other kin with considerable financial losses, not to mention tremendous personal loss. In cases where another party was culpable for the death of their loved one, grieving families were left with no legal rights or options. To correct this problem, states began to give surviving family members wrongful death legal rights to seek compensation for their losses and suffering as a result of another’s negligence or wrong.
Today, spouses, children, and other kin have the legal right to seek compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Through a wrongful death lawsuit, survivors can seek compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, funeral expenses and other out-of pocket costs. Survivors also have wrongful death legal rights to receive compensation for non-economic losses such as the loss of consortium, and emotional pain and suffering. Some states put limits on the amount of these awards, while others do not.
All wrongful death laws have what is called a statute of limitations which limits the time that survivors can exercise their wrongful death legal rights. Every state has a different statute of limitations which can range anywhere from a few months to a few years. In most cases a statute of limitations begins when the person dies. A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed in the amount of time allotted in order to be considered a valid claim. To protect your legal rights and interests, it is wise to speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
If you would like to learn more about your wrongful death legal rights, please contact us today to speak with one of our qualified and experienced attorneys.
Wrongful Death Case
Generally speaking, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed in any situation where another person is at fault for the victim’s death. A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the dependants and beneficiaries of the decedent to seek compensation for their losses and suffering. There are many situations where a wrongful death case may be appropriate.
Medical malpractice that results in death comprises a large number of wrongful death cases filed each year. Medical malpractice is defined as a medical professional’s failure to act with the skill, care, and prudence required of a member of his/her profession. Examples of medical malpractice that can result in a wrongful death case include failure to diagnose, misdiagnosis, prescription error, surgical error, birth injury and more.
Approximately 800,000 people are injured as a result of medical malpractice each year. Many cases are fatal. One national study discovered that approximately 40 percent of all autopsy reports show a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose. In some cases, it may not be clear that medical malpractice was the cause of your loved one’s death. Therefore, it is very important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can evaluate your situation to determine your rights and options in a wrongful death case.
Fatal personal injury accidents are another major type of wrongful death case. Motor vehicle accidents make up the majority of accident-related wrongful death cases. Airplane crashes, train wrecks, work related accidents, slip and fall injuries, dog bites, exposure to toxic substances, fire accidents, and other fatal injury situations are also examples of wrongful death cases.
When a defective drug or product causes a person’s death, their survivors may also be eligible to file a wrongful death case. Drug manufacturers and the makers of all products sold in the United States are subject to strict liability. With strict liability, anyone involved in the production or sale of the defective product can be held liable for the injury. Proving negligence or intentional wrongdoing is not required to receive compensation in a wrongful death case. Strict liability also applies to situations where a party is engaged in dangerous activities, such as “blasting” in a city or keeping wild animals. If a person is injured or killed as a result of these acts, a wrongful death case can be filed regardless of how careful the party was.
Wrongful death cases can also arise from criminal acts that cause fatal damage to a victim. For example, a man is fatally shot during a burglary of his family’s home. The prosecutor will file the criminal charges against the burglar to determine his guilt or innocence, but the surviving family members have the right to file a separate wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for their losses and suffering against the burglar.
In any situation where another party may be culpable for the death of a loved one, it is wise to seek legal advice. It is important to keep in mind that all wrongful death cases are subject to a statute of limitations which restricts the time you have to file. If you would like to learn more about wrongful death cases, please contact us.
It is important to choose a law firm experienced in aggressively pursuing wrongful death claims to the maximum benefit of their clients. At Oshman & Mirisola, LLP, our attorneys give proactive attention to the needs of each family.
Contact us today at 1-800-400-8182, or contact us online for a free case evaluation. Our firm utilizes the contingency fee system, where we not only provide free consultations, but never charge a fee unless we are successful in obtaining a settlement or jury verdict on your behalf.
Additional Wrongful Death Resources