Wrongful death is defined as the death of a person from an injury that was caused by neglect or by any wrongful act committed by another person or a company.
The act in question must be of the kind that was avoidable. Some common examples include:
- Automobile accidents
- Slip and fall accidents
- Product Defects
- Complications with prescription drugs
- Medical malpractice
A wrongful death claim is an extension of a personal injury lawsuit wherein the injured person can no longer advocate for him- or herself in a legal proceeding. Rather, another party is responsible for bringing the complaint to court on the deceased’s behalf.
Who May File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Laws vary by state. However, in many states the law makes provision for spouses, domestic partners, and next of kin (parents, siblings, or surviving progeny) to bring action in a wrongful death suit. Under this provision, an unmarried partner can (and should) raise a complaint and collect damages. Contact an attorney, like a wrongful death lawyer Des Moines IA can trust, in your state to determine how the law affects your ability to file a claim.
Wills and Estate Plans Involving Domestic Partnerships
If the deceased had a will or other type of estate plan, damages are usually paid to the estate and then distributed to the survivors commensurate with the degree of loss suffered by each. Spouses, domestic partners, and underage children or dependents to the deceased may have part of the settlement or judgment allocated to them. In many states, funds are typically disbursed as follows:
- The entire estate goes to the spouse or domestic partner if there are no surviving parents or children.
- Two-thirds to the spouse or domestic partner if there are children belonging to both the partner and the deceased.
- Half to the spouse or partner if there are children who are not his/hers biologically with the remainder disbursed among the children.
- Three quarters to the spouse or partner if there are no children but the deceased has at least one surviving parent.
Determination of Damages
Damages in wrongful death cases filed in Washington, D.C. are determined either by a jury or judge. Judgments and settlements are based on the facts of the case, including the injurious effects on the survivors. Damages are then distributed based upon the criteria listed above.
Damage awards may include recovery of amounts for:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- All medical bills
- Lost present and future wages and benefits
You may also be able to collect for other contributions likely to have been made by the deceased, both monetary and nonmonetary, including financial and moral support, companionship, personal care, and other acts and services performed for the benefit of surviving family members.
Some states do not place a cap or limit on the amount of monetary damages a domestic partner or other surviving family member can recover, but damages are not awarded in this type of case for grief, sorrow, mental distress, or loss of consortium or affection. Consult with your attorney on specific action you can take to recover these types of damages if applicable.
Limitation Statute on Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
In many states, the law allows up to two years from the date of the incident to file a complaint of wrongful death. It is also important to understand that a wrongful death claim can be filed even if the accused negligent party is also facing criminal charges. Wrongful death is a civil charge brought for the sole purpose of recovering money damages.
If someone you loved fell victim to someone else’s negligence or malice, you may have the right and responsibility to act upon his or her behalf. Contact an attorney who specializes in wrongful death complaints without delay. You may be entitled to a substantial settlement or judgment.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Johnston Martineau PLLP for their insight into wrongful death cases.