Like other personal injury cases, you must have evidence to document your loved one’s wrongful death before recovering compensation for your family. Knowing what is needed to prove wrongful death is not always easy. Each case is unique, and you must use the available evidence to show the accused party’s negligence led to their injuries and death. This task requires a lot of evidence that is often difficult to gather and analyze as an individual.
Hiring a wrongful death lawyer can make navigating this process, proving the case, and recovering compensation easier. It allows you to focus on grieving, spending time with surviving family members, and returning to work or other important tasks. Handling a case like this on your own could quickly become frustrating, stressful, and time-consuming. Wrongful death attorneys know how these cases work and handle them daily. Reach out to a wrongful death lawyer.
Most law firms that take personal injury and wrongful death cases offer free initial consultations. You can get a free case assessment with a local law firm. They can help you understand your case and the next steps at no cost to your family.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful deaths occur when one party’s carelessness or recklessness causes someone else to suffer fatal injuries. For example, when a driver causes a car accident, and a victim dies, the at-fault driver might face a wrongful death case. Legally, this concept is known as negligence. When a party is negligent and someone else dies, they are likely liable for the damages the victim’s surviving family members sustained.
Generally, any time a victim could have filed a personal injury case against the at-fault party had they survived, the case will support a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. However, each state has its own wrongful death laws. For this reason, the way your state handles these cases could vary.
Aspects that often differ between states include:
- Who has a right to file
- Who receives the payout from the case
- The recoverable damages
- How long you have to get started
Common Accident Cases Wrongful Death Attorneys Handle
In most states, almost any negligent accident and many criminal acts could support a wrongful death case, including:
- Car accidents
- Motorcycle crashes
- Truck collisions
- Drunk driving accidents
- Pool accidents
You could have a valid case if your loved one died from injuries or complications after one of these incidents or another accident due to someone else’s bad behavior. You can determine your legal options when you discuss the case with a wrongful death lawyer or their team in your area.
What Happens When to a Vicariously Liable Person or Entity?
Sometimes, liability will be more complex than it first appears. When this occurs, you might need to document additional facts to ensure your case against the accused party is clear. For example, imagine your loved one died in a crash caused by a commercial truck driver. Most states recognize a concept known as respondeat superior in these cases. Because of this legal doctrine, the driver’s employer holds vicarious liability.
When a lawyer builds a case against the truck driver, they must also identify the trucker’s employer. Their employer is likely vicariously liable for the wrongful death. Here, the attorney may file a claim against the company’s large corporate liability policy instead of the at-fault driver’s individual auto insurance coverage. This action could allow the recovery of a much higher payout when the evidence supports it.
Building a Wrongful Death Case
Like personal injury cases, wrongful death claims center on one party’s negligence and the harm it caused. Carelessness or recklessness almost always leads to serious injuries and the victim’s death in these cases. The family must show who acted negligently to prove the party is liable.
To demonstrate negligence, you must prove:
- Duty of care owed to the victim
- Breach of duty
- Proximate cause
During an investigation, the victim’s family and their attorney gather evidence to show that these elements exist in the case.
For example, in a traffic accident:
- Duty of care: Traffic laws establish a duty to behave a certain way to protect others from collisions. For example, drivers must stop at red lights.
- Breach of duty: Violating the traffic law is a breach of the duty of care, putting others in danger.
- Proximate cause: The breach of duty was the immediate cause of the collision; the driver running the red light caused the crash.
- Harm: The victim suffered physical and financial harm, in this case, passing away from their crash injuries.
Common Evidence in Wrongful Death Cases
The investigation necessary to document each of these elements requires knowledge and experience. Your attorney can understand the evidence available and what they need to build a compelling case to recover damages.
This evidence varies by case but could include:
- Any official accident reports filed by law enforcement or other first responders
- Eyewitness accounts
- Videos of the incident
- Photos from the scene
- Scene surveys
- Accident reconstruction for traffic collisions
- Physical evidence
- Relevant medical records
- Expert interviews
- Documentation of damages
Once your attorney gathers, organizes, and analyzes this evidence, they should know what happened and who is legally responsible. They can use this knowledge to support their negotiations with the insurer or prepare to present it to the jury at trial. This evidence is central to the case and recovery of fair compensation for your family.
What Are Your Legal Options for Recovery?
Your loved one deserves justice, and your family wants to hold the other party accountable. In addition, you need compensation to help you pay the related expenses, so how do you do that?
First, you must identify and document your recoverable damages.
They differ in each case but often include:
- Medical bills related to the deceased’s injuries and treatment
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost income, including future earnings and benefits
- Conscious pain and suffering endured by the deceased before their death
- Mental anguish for surviving family members
- Loss of services around the home
- Loss of support, companionship, and parental guidance
Some states outline specific damages available in these cases. The recoverable damages in your case could vary based on the applicable laws.
In general, the two ways to recover compensation following a wrongful death include:
Filing an Insurance Claim and Negotiating a Settlement
A negotiated settlement is the most common way to recover compensation in any injury or wrongful death case. The liable party’s insurance carrier agrees to pay a fair amount based on the case facts and documented damages. This turnout usually occurs after several rounds of negotiations and the family’s lawyer presented a strong case.
Filing a Lawsuit and Taking the Case to Trial
Your attorney might recommend suing the liable party and taking your case to a jury trial. There are numerous reasons why this way might be a good recommendation in a wrongful death case. Your attorney can explain their thought process and why they want to take this approach. No one wants to go to trial, but it is sometimes necessary to recover fair compensation in an injury or wrongful death case.
Sometimes, the method your attorney chooses to handle a wrongful death case is a combination of these two. They pursue both avenues concurrently. This way, they can prepare the case for trial while continuing to negotiate for a fair settlement. These cases often settle outside of court. Only occasionally is a jury trial necessary.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Case in My State?
The laws regarding who can file a wrongful death case and who receives the proceeds vary widely. Each state sets its own rules and determines how these cases proceed.
Generally this could work three different ways:
- Any immediate family member represents the rest of the family in the case.
- Only certain immediate family members can sue, generally the spouse or children, then the parents, then siblings or grandparents.
- Only the deceased’s personal representative can act on behalf of survivors.
Usually, the family receives the compensation recovered in these cases. However, that could differ based on your state’s laws, too. Some states distribute the payout in these cases according to the will or estate plan, while others give the money directly to the immediate family members who experienced the losses and expenses.
What Role Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Play?
Your attorney can protect your rights and seek compensation on behalf of your family. They know how insurance companies work, the approach they often take in these cases, and the tactics they use to pay less. Wrongful death lawyers fight for the fair compensation their clients need and deserve based on the financial effects of their loved one’s death.
If your loved one died because of someone else’s negligence, you do not have to fight the liable party and their insurer on your own. Hiring an attorney often makes this process easier and less stressful.
Tasks a Wrongful Death Attorney Can Manage for You
When you choose to work with a lawyer, they handle all parts of the wrongful death case. You do not have to stress over what needs to be done or how to navigate the claims process. You will focus on spending time with family and handling other tasks while the law firm deals with the civil case against the liable party.
As a part of handling your case, your attorney will manage tasks that include:
- Investigating what happened
- Identifying the liable party or parties
- Documenting recoverable damages
- Demanding a fair payout from the insurer
- Negotiating with the insurance carrier
- Suing the liable party as necessary
- Representing your family at trial
A wrongful death attorney knows how these cases work in your state. The laws vary so widely on how these processes work, who acts on behalf of the family, and the recoverable damages. Your lawyer can assess and explain your case based on the applicable laws and help you seek fair compensation.
They understand you want justice for your loved one, and their goal is to hold the liable party accountable and recover damages for your family.
A Local Law Firm Can Navigate Your Wrongful Death Case
A local law firm can discuss your legal options and the applicable state laws related to your case. They generally provide free evaluations. This way, you can learn how the firm has approached similar cases and get answers to your questions about what it takes to settle an insurance claim or win a court award. Reach out to a personal injury lawyer.
During your free consultation, they review the facts, explain your options, and discuss how their attorney could help you pursue the compensation your family needs and deserves. Wrongful death attorneys generally work based on contingency, so you pay no upfront fees to hire a lawyer to handle your case.