Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult enough when it occurs through natural causes. When preventable death happens because of the actions of another person, it can be a different level of devastation. You may find yourself suffering emotionally and financially, while wondering if there is anything you can do to seek justice.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death occurs when a person dies because of the negligence or misconduct of another person or entity. This is a civil action, separate from criminal prosecution regarding the fatality.
Not all deaths are wrongful, so it is important to understand when you should seek legal counsel. You have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim. Here are some examples of when to consider hiring a wrongful death attorney.
1. Vehicle Accidents
Consider filing a wrongful death claim for a vehicle accident caused by another person. Your attorney will be responsible for investigating the facts of the accident and helping to determine fault. In some cases, the fault may deflect to an entity or company. Mechanical defects with the vehicle or roadways that are not properly maintained are potential accident causes.
2. Medical Malpractice
Healthcare professionals typically give every patient their best effort, but negligence does occur. If your loved one’s death involved receiving inadequate or substandard care, you will want to speak to a wrongful death attorney. According to the Medical Malpractice Center, in the United States, there are between 15,000 and 19,000 medical malpractice suits against doctors every year. There are circumstances where a doctor’s negligence is blatant, but oftentimes, it takes skill and experience to prove that malpractice has occurred.
3. Workplace Accident
Accidents do occur. Employers are obligated to ensure that they are providing the safest possible environment for their employees. It is worth learning more about the circumstances of the accident to determine if the employer met all reasonable expectations of care. As a loved one, you may have a claim for workers’ compensation death benefits. Depending on who was at fault for the workplace accident, you may also be able to file a lawsuit.
4. A Homicide Occurred
Not all wrongful deaths are accidents; sometimes a person is killed deliberately. It’s a common misconception that you can only seek justice for a homicide through the criminal legal system. But the loved ones of a homicide victim can also pursue a civil lawsuit for wrongful death.Wrongful death can be deliberate and the courts assert that a person has a duty of care to not kill other people. Even if the perpetrator was acquitted of criminal charges, you can still pursue a civil claim against them.
Proving the Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
Four elements must be satisfied to prove a wrongful death claim. A wrongful death attorney should have the legal knowledge and experience to ensure these are met within the context of your case before you move forward.
- A person or entity acted wrongfully or negligently;
- Death occurred;
- The victim’s death was caused by the wrongful action; and
- The victim’s family suffered substantial, compensable loss because of the death.
Proving all these elements can be a challenge. This is why it is important to seek legal counsel about the strength of your case, as well as its potential monetary value. Hiring a wrongful death attorney is the best move you can make to ensure that you and your family are taken care of following the death of a loved one.