September 25 2019 - The highest-known payout related to a wrongful death lawsuit is $9M for two deaths in a medical malpractice case. Medical errors are also the third-leading cause of death in the country, with over 250,000 deaths per year. Suing for wrongful death isn't as straightforward as placing the origin of death.
Wrongful death litigations are difficult, especially for grieving families. Knowing what you're up against and having an experienced team of lawyers is key.
Use this guide to get familiar with the process and increase your ability to connect.
Proving Your Case
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit to seek monetary damages for the loss of a loved one. The claim is that their death was the result of negligence or an unintentional injury that resulted in their death. Wrongful death lawsuits are filed on behalf of the decedent, usually family or a representative of their estate.
They can be a spouse, biological or adopted children, and legal beneficiaries of the estate. Friends are excluded from being plaintiffs, no matter the strength of their relationship to the deceased. The only exception is those that are named in a will as executor or administrator.
Defendants include individuals directly responsible for their death, property owners and business owners, corporations, and government bodies.
To win a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff is under the burden of proof. They must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's actions/inactions led to the decedent's death. This includes proof of negligence (i.e. driving under the influence), intentional acts to do harm, and legal liability for the decedent's death.
Legal liability means the defendant is responsible, even if they were not negligent or deliberate in the decedent's death. This is strictly about ownership involving the cause of death. As an owner, is proof that they did not take the necessary precautions to prevent their death.
Sufficient documentation and supporting evidence will win a wrongful death case. Circumstantial evidence will also improve the ability to collect. This includes past criminal history of the defendant or any bad history with the decedent.
The most common form of evidence include:
Independent testimonies are invaluable in proving a wrongful death case. These third-party accounts take away the narrative of vindictive families.
A detailed medical history will help plaintiffs prove that the injury caused by the defendant led to their death.
This also counts as unbiased evidence, in which the police officer can give their professional opinions on the victim's injury. Reports also contain damning evidence like sobriety tests and defendant testimony at the scene. Conflicting or inconsistent stories can make or break the case for defendants.
If you can, find documentation that shows a pattern of negligence, poor security, bad quality control, safety, and etc. Leaks that acknowledge deceptive practices can result in a big win for plaintiff cases.
Expert witnesses are paid to give their professional opinion on evidence in a case. This is important to have for convincing a jury and lamenting key evidence. The more experts reaffirming the case, the better.
The median price range for a medical expert to testify is $500 an hour. These are usually doctors and specialists with long careers. The median price for non-medical experts (lab techs, realtors, LEOs, etc.) is $275 an hour.
Compensation is divided up into monetary and non-monetary categories. Monetary damage means that there is a total value that is tied to property or services that require compensation. This includes the decedent's family's loss of income for the remainder of their lives.
Non-monetary is not a definite or measurable list of damages. These include emotional pain and suffering, loss of generational guidance, moral contributions, and etc. For married decedent's, their spouses are rewarded a "loss of consortium", or companionship.
When it comes to victims of crimes or innocent bystanders, there is a state crime victim's compensation fund. This is a protected fund that provides assistance for family counseling, funeral expenses, state, and medical expenses accrued.
Emotional Weight of a Case
Each state has laws instituted to give to the individuals who endured the unnecessary loss of a friend or family member. Laws likewise fill in as a deterrent to those whose careless activities may cause a future unnecessary loss of life.
The laws manage how judges and juries assess cases and render reasonable decisions. They give rules to defer to when surveying risk and harms. Regardless of the law, the estimation of an individual's life and the impact of their passing on friends and family can't be estimated.
So, judges and juries are free in choosing the amount to grant in financial and emotional-related harm. Their decisions depend more on the situational and emotionally-related parts of a case than financial ones.
Suing for Wrongful Death Takes Longer Than You May Expect
Wrongful death cases are in every case high-dollar cases with taxing, complex prosecution. These cases proceed on a tight schedule. In spite of the family's fresh trauma from their loss, the legal time limit is running.
This means a claim must have the documentation before the statute of limitations expires. The insurance agencies won't think about your distress or what's best for your family. There is no chance to get anywhere near the compensation that an experienced lawyer can seek after.
Suing for wrongful death is difficult enough, cases involving multiple parties are a minefield. These are difficult to win and often last for months, even years. Wrongful death cases take up a lot of time during pre-trial hearings.
Research the local news reports on wrongful death cases and understand how many are settled and how many are won. Some defendants try to bully-victims' families to avoid having to pay large awards. But, sometimes taking the settlement is best to limit the amount of emotional trauma experienced during a case.
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