Losing a loved one can be difficult regardless of the situation. Just heartbreak alone can be very traumatic and difficult to overcome. When the loss is a person who provides support to the family, it can be devastating. When the death is due to the negligence or actions of another, they should be held responsible for that loss.
What is a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is what it sounds like: it is when a death occurs due to another person or entity’s negligence or misconduct. When this type of situation occurs, the dependents of the deceased may file a wrongful death lawsuit.
There are many circumstances that can give rise to wrongful death. Criminal activity, car accidents, medical malpractice, manufacturing defects, etc. are all possibilities. A lawsuit can often allow family members the ability to get compensation for the damages caused by that death.
Types of Damages from a Wrongful Death
During a lawsuit for wrongful death, family members must determine the personal and financial burden the death has caused them. Although difficult to put a monetary value on this type of loss, it is necessary to ensure the person found responsible pays.
During the lawsuit, dependents can sue for all the costs related to the death. This can include hospital bills and treatment for the injuries. They can also sue for the costs of the funeral and burial expenses. Family’s can also sue for other losses the death has caused. This includes loss of income, care, protection, and any other assistance the deceased provided.
Family members can even sue for other types of damages that are a little more difficult to establish a cash value for. Mental anguish due to the loss of that person and the interactions they will miss out on in the future. They can also sue for punitive damages. These damages are used to punish the defendant when the death was due to willful conduct or recklessness with a conscious disregard for others.
How Long Does the Family Have to File a Lawsuit?
For cases of wrongful death, the family only has a limited amount of time to file the suit. This is called a statute of limitation. The statute of limitation can vary from state to state. For example, in West Virginia, a lawsuit for wrongful death must be filed within two years of the incident. However, in Missouri, the suit must be filed within three years.
There are some exceptions to this statute of limitations. For example, it may take time after a person’s death to realize it occurred due to medical malpractice. In criminal cases, it may take time to prove who is responsible for the death. The courts may allow extensions due to such circumstances, but family members should act as soon as possible to prevent losing their chance.
What Does Qualified Dependent Mean and Who Are They?
The qualified dependents include the surviving spouse and the children or grandchildren. Surviving parents and siblings of the deceased are also included. Other relatives that shared the household with the deceased and are dependent or any surviving family member entitled to inherit the estate would also qualify.
In some states, there is a hierarchy of who can sue. For example, spouses and children are at the top of the list. However, if there are no children, parents and the surviving spouse may file together. In other states, the person appointed to manage the estate of the deceased would be the representative that files the suit on behalf of the family.