Understanding Wrongful Death Issues and How They Affect Loved Ones
It’s common to hear attorneys use the term wrongful death, but not everyone understands what constitutes a wrongful death and what survivors’ rights are after a loved one is killed. That’s why the Hadley Law Firm encourages survivors to contact our office if there are any questions relating to a loved one’s untimely death.
How is Wrongful Death Defined?
Anyone causing the death of another person, either accidentally or deliberately, can be sued for damages by surviving family members or other affected individuals. As a rule, a representative of the deceased person’s estate will initiate the action. Our wrongful death team will help clients determine who should act as the estate’s representative if that is necessary.
Wrongful Death Applies to a Variety of Situations
There are many situations where a wrongful death claim can be made. That’s why we encourage clients to discuss a questionable death with our team soon after a person’s death to determine if a legal action is appropriate.
While many clear-cut situations can lead to a wrongful death, others are not as well-defined. The nuances of each case determine the type of action the Hadley Law Firm will recommend, because the objective is always to obtain the best possible outcome for surviving family members. Some of the common issues we routinely see include:
- Vehicle Accidents. Anytime an accident victim dies as a result of injuries suffered in that accident, the family is encouraged to consider a wrongful death action. These types of accidents include car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. Again, since specific situations involve unique circumstances, we strongly recommend discussing the issues with our team before talking to the at-fault driver’s insurer.
- Accidental Death on a Property. If someone dies as a result of a fall or other incidents on private or public property and the incident is a result of the owner’s carelessness, the estate can file an action to recover damages. For example, a person might fall because of a damaged sidewalk or steps and die because of related head injuries. If the owner knew a problem existed and did nothing to correct the issue, a wrongful death action would be appropriate.
- Medical Malpractice. Medical professionals are human. That means they occasionally make mistakes. Unfortunately, those mistakes can easily lead to the death of a patient. When a physician fails to diagnose a patient’s condition correctly or doesn’t deliver the level of care required, they will be liable for those actions. It’s important to remember that other medical team professionals can also be guilty of malpractice, so it’s vital the estate representative discusses situations with our team as quickly as possible.
There are, of course, other situations where the term wrongful death applies. Even what might appear to be a criminal activity that results in a victim’s death may also be pursued in civil courts. Don’t assume there is no case without discussing the specifics with our team.
Steps Necessary to Establish a Case
One of the common issues attorneys face is establishing the facts of a case and determining if those facts suggest a wrongful death claim is appropriate. The laws governing wrongful death claims are specific, and there are specific burdens of proof that must be met. That is why we always recommend that the estate’s representative contact our office as soon as possible. It’s easier to establish a case when the events are fresh in everyone’s minds and related data is easily accessible.
When our team is contacted by an estate representative, there are a few things we must always demonstrate to the opposition or the courts. They include:
Showing the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. For example, drivers are expected to obey the rules of the road and drive with care. A merchant must keep a store free of hazards, and contractors must not put clients at risk by providing shoddy workmanship.
Proving the defendant breached that required duty of care. Reckless driving, as an example, would suggest the defendant failed to act appropriately and put the lives of others at risk.
Showing how the defendant’s actions caused the death. It’s common for defendants or their insurers to claim there were other possible causes of the death that were not related to the accident. That’s another reason it’s always important to obtain legal assistance as soon as possible instead of trying to deal with a defendant without legal assistance.
Establishing the death led to the damages the estate is seeking to recover. While specific losses, like future wages, can be easily estimated, other losses are more difficult to pinpoint. Insurers are likely to argue about issues like loss of companionship, because they tend to be harder to define and estimate. However, there are some basic guidelines we recommend when pursuing claims.
The easiest way to identify issues that might come up with a claim is to sit down and discuss the specific details of a claim. If you’ve lost a loved one due to the negligence of another person, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a wrongful death attorney.
Taking That First Step
Dealing with the death of a loved one is always traumatic, but it’s important to remember the Hadley Law Firm is here to provide any assistance you need to get through a difficult time. We’ve seen how devastating the loss of a loved one can be to remaining family members and will work diligently to recover any damages entitled to those left behind.
While talking to an attorney may be the last thing you want to do, it’s important to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to discuss potential strategies for moving forward. Wrongful death claims should never be put off. Doing so makes it more difficult to collect the evidence needed to prove a case.
If you’ve lost a loved one, contact our team today for advice. We’ll do everything possible to ensure you and your loved ones receive the justice needed to move on.