The passing of a loved one can turn your life upside down. This rings particularly true when the event leading to their death could have been avoided. In the aftermath of a wrongful death, it can be very challenging to keep everything together, especially if you plan on pursuing a legal claim against whoever was at fault. There is a lot that goes into wrongful death cases, and it is important to understand the essential elements of a wrongful death case.
If you feel like you might be entitled to compensation for the untimely passing of your loved one, please reach out to the personal injury lawyers at The Patel Law Firm in Corpus Christi, TX. We have experienced wrongful death lawyers ready to assist you with this delicate matter.
Who Can File for a Wrongful Death Claim?
In a majority of cases, only the immediate family can file for a wrongful death case. This includes the parents of the victim or their spouse and children. However, some states allow more distant relatives to file for a claim as well, but they will likely need to be receiving direct financial support from them in one way or another. A distant relative can rarely build a case if they don’t have a close financial connection to the deceased.
What Can Classify as a Wrongful Death?
Regardless of who files the claim, there are many potential causes of the loved one’s passing that can lead to the foundation of a wrongful death case. Some of the most common factors are deaths from occupational hazards, vehicle accidents, product defects, and medical malpractice. People who die while under the care of others can have a case built for them as well. These usually include child deaths that occur during a supervised event, or elderly deaths from abuse or neglect in a nursing home.
A more unknown reason that can fall under wrongful death is criminal activity. If your loved one was a victim of a shooting, stabbing, or some other form of violence, a civil case such as this one can be filed against their aggressor. A famous example of this is the OJ Simpson case. He was found not guilty but was still sued in a civil court for the damages and was ordered to pay a substantial amount to the families of the deceased. However, with violent crimes, the aggressor or criminal may not have any funds or assets, and the decedent’s families are not able to recover monetary damages for their loss.
What Are the Key Elements of a Wrongful Death Case?
After you have determined that your loved one’s passing can be classified as a wrongful death, assistance from a personal injury lawyer who is experienced in wrongful death cases is highly suggested. There are four keys elements that a claimant must prove in order to pursue a wrongful death case. The first element is negligence. There needs to be clear evidence that the at-fault party was careless or reckless during the event that led to your family member’s death. They don’t have to be entirely at fault for negligence to apply, but a portion of the blame does have to lie on their shoulders.
The next factor to prove is that there was a breach of duty. This is when the at-fault party failed to perform what would reasonably be expected or legally required by them. In order for you to prove a breach of duty, you need to clearly establish what the duty of the defendant was and how they failed to do what a prudent person would have done in the same circumstance. In most cases, the at-fault party’s duty is unmistakably defined by law, but this isn’t always the case which is why the assistance of an experienced wrongful death attorney is necessary.
After both negligence and breach of duty have been defined, you must prove the level of causation for your family member’s death. The “but-for” test is commonly used when proving causation. This entails proving how their negligence and breach of duty directly led to the wrongful death of your loved one. Simply put, the decedent’s accident would not have occurred, but for the actions of the negligent party.
The final factor is the quantifiable damages that the decedent’s death has left behind, which consist of and medical expenses, funeral costs, and losses of income, and calculation of future lost earnings. To reach the figures, the testimony from expert witnesses is often times needed to calculate the current and future damages. An experienced personal injury lawyer can assist with streamlining the process of calculating damages and will help with collecting additional evidence that will strengthen a wrongful death claim.
How Much Can You Receive From Your Claim?
In most wrongful death cases, the amount the claimants are awarded from the loss of their loved one depends on the factors previously mentioned. Each case is different and revolves around a specific set of facts. Claimants should discuss compensation only after all facts have been presented to the court and settlement attempts are being made, or a jury trial is being conducted. This is why communicating with a qualified wrongful death lawyer who can discuss legal strategy with you is imperative.
How Are Settlements Paid Out?
After the amount of the payment is fully determined and agreed upon, it will get paid out by the at-fault’s insurer to the claimant or claimant’s and their lawyer. Personal injury settlements received by plaintiff’s are not subject to federal income tax. For minors, settlement proceeds pay be placed in a court registry until the claimant turns 18 years of age.
If you or a loved one has lost a family member due to a wrongful death accident, it is important to understand the full scope of the matter. Personal injury lawyers who are experienced in wrongful death cases will help you fully understand what is at stake, what the next steps should be, and what is needed from the family to pursue the matter. Keep in mind that the insurance company’s main goal while defending the defendant is to minimize the damages the claimants are alleging. As nice as they may seem in the beginning, their goal is to pay the least amount for their client’s wrongdoing. Hiring a personal injury lawyer who will fight the insurance company for your loved one will be the best course of action when pursuing a wrongful death claim. If you need getting your life back on track after the wrongful death of a loved one, contact the wrongful death attorneys at The Patel Law Firm for a free consultation today.