Taking A Closer Look At Wrongful Death Laws

by Ladyblogger on February 25, 2013

If you have a family member who died due to the negligent actions of an individual, business or government entity, you might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Each state has different guidelines that determine the applicable statute of limitations and other restrictions, however, so it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. For example, if the death occurs in Michigan, you will have three years to file a case, but there are some states that only give you one year.

What is the Definition of Wrongful Death?

For a wrongful death to occur, an individual must die due to the negligent action or inaction of another person or entity. For example, if a driver kills a pedestrian because they were looking at their phone instead of the road, a wrongful death lawsuit might be appropriate. Although each state’s wrongful death statute was written separately, there are four common elements that are typically represented.

The Four Elements that are Essential for a Wrongful Death Case

In order to file a successful wrongful death case, you will need to be able to prove each of the following:

1) The conduct of the defendant was at least partially responsible for the individual’s death.

2) The defendant’s specific action or inaction makes them both negligent and liable for the individual’s death.

3) The deceased is survived by a child, spouse, beneficiary or other legal dependent.

4) The family has incurred monetary expenses as a result of the individual’s death.

Wrongful Death Statistics

Each year, the majority of the 90,000 wrongful death cases that are filed in the U.S. are due to drunk driving and other traffic related incidents. Like most other lawsuits, it is typical for a wrongful death case to be settled out of court. The amount of money that the family will receive can be limited by the state. For example, Florida has a restriction in place that prohibits families from seeking more than 1.5 million in non-economic damages from a wrongful death case outside the medical field. If you are filing a case against a medical practitioner, however, you will only be able to ask for 1 million to cover non-economic damages.

Factors that will Influence the Settlement Amount

In addition to remaining compliant with your state’s guidelines for damages, you will also need to consider several factors when you decide on the amount of damages that you are seeking. If the case gets to a judge, they are going to take all of the following items into account: funeral expenses, expected earnings between the time of the accident and the victim’s anticipated retirement age, loss of parental companionship for any minor children, mental anguish suffered by the survivors, loss of all employment related benefits and the general character of the deceased. In other words, if a father of two is killed by a drunk driver at the age of 35, his family is likely to receive a much larger settlement than a retired man of 65 who was only survived by his spouse. In South Carolina, Charleston personal injury attorney firms see many different outcomes for wrongful death cases that occur each year.

Regardless of all the specific factors, it is always in your best interests to work with an attorney who has experience dealing with wrongful death lawsuits. Not only will they have a firm understanding of how the law works in your state, but they will also be able to draw on their experience to help you determine a fair settlement amount.

Anthony Joseph is a freelance author who enjoys writing about many different areas of law, and contributes this article toward the fight to keep our families safe. Having a Charleston personal injury attorney from the law firm of Howell & Christmas, can make the difference when trying to fight for what you rightly deserve. They have over 30 years of experience defending and protecting the rights of victims.

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