Wrongful Death Law Basics

Attorney Michael Ehline

Attorney Michael EhliThe definition of a wrongful death lawsuit begins with the death of a person who dies due to the negligence or carelessness of another person, a company, manufacturer or entity. This type of death can be challenged in a court of law by the immediate family or a personal representative of the deceased, to hold the negligent party responsible for the death. Most commonly, the immediate family that files the wrongful death lawsuit with the assistance of a wrongful death attorney will be a surviving spouse, children of the deceased, parents, and in some cases grandparents or another family member directly affected by the death.

Possible Types of Wrongful Death

some common types of situations can be responsible for the wrongful death of a person. They include:

Motor vehicle accidents due to careless or reckless behavior on the roadway that results in the death of another person. And this can involve car, motorcycle, bus and big rig accidents. Pedestrian and bicycle accidents that result in death due to the negligence of a motor vehicle driver. Bicycle accidents resulting in death might also be due to a manufacturer or company’s poor design or defective parts.
Defective products can place the company or manufacturer as a negligent party when the product was poorly designed or had a defect, or there was a failure to warn of dangers associated with a product, which was directly responsible for the death of a consumer.

Death By Product

Yes, the death can be from a defective electronic product, a faulty motor vehicle or aftermarket part. Other examples could be a motorcycle with a poor design. Also, recalled products, including medications can be responsible for a wrongful death. And the manufacturer(s) can be held negligent.
Medical malpractice can be responsible for the death of a person. The death may be caused by medical practices, medical procedures by an inexperienced or untrained medical professional, inappropriate care in conjunction with other medical professionals, and other types of medical errors.

Workplace negligence can result in a wrongful death action. And it can happen when there is improper maintenance of equipment. Basically, anytime hazardous conditions exist, death is sue to follow. For example, imagine a hazardous substance used at your workplace without proper protection and ventilation. But it can happen in other ways. For example, airplane and bus accidents caused by operator error, reckless behavior, or lack of proper maintenance that results in death. Dog bite attacks can result in wrongful death, and the owner remains accountable for the animal’s actions in most cases.

Criminal Behavior or Actions

Wrongful death lawsuits have time constraints. And the lawsuit must be filed within the legal time limit. If not, the court rejects the filing.

Understanding Pecuniary Loss

Punitive damages are a part of the wrongful death lawsuit. And they come into play when the acts were reckless, grossly negligent or intentional. Most of all, the death of another person took place. This is a way to punish the negligent party and to avoid similar actions in the future. This is a monetary amount that the jury awards, but when it is excessive the judge presiding over the lawsuit can reduce the amount that is awarded. So this part of the claim will consider the victim’s age.

Understanding Compensatory Damages

Next, the jury might look at an adult decedent’s earning capacity, medical costs, funeral costs, and other expenses. These compensatory damages are monies awarded by the jury or a judge to repay the victim’s family for special costs. So funeral, burial costs, any medical care, and other expenses are tallied. Also included are other costs incurred as a direct result of the wrongful death. These projectable expenses would include lost income the dead victim would have earned. And this could span decades, depending on the age of the victim at the time of their death. Compensation may be awarded for housekeeping, child care, grief and loss of companionship. And compensation can include other damages.

The Use of Experts

Experts are often used in a wrongful death lawsuit. And they can help prove the effect of the loss of the victim and the victim’s worth to the family. This can include experts for the victim that did not work outside of the home and can be especially important for the jury. But not all jurors will have a clear understanding of what the expenses can include. For example, a loss of being able to do your housekeeping and child care. Also, expert testimony can assist the jury in determining the dollar amount of damages awardable. So that way the survivors of the wrongful death victim garner their fair share for the loss.

Wrapping Up the Fundamentals of Wrongful Death Law and Getting a Personal Injury Lawyer

Understanding wrongful death law is only the first step. The fundamentals of wrongful death lawsuits basically get your foot into the courthouse door and clearly set up a road map for success for the tort victim. You [the victim] still need a veteran attorney. And that person needs vast legal experience as a wrongful death attorney.

There are many methods of doing this. You can go online and do a search. For example, if you live in Los Angeles, you could do a search for Los Angeles wrongful death attorneys. If you live in San Francisco, you will do the same search. But you’ll use “San Francisco” as your keywords.

Your doctor may try to set you up with a lawyer at the hospital. Be very careful, as there is probably something in it for the doctor beyond just a handshake from the lawyer. Good lawyers try to reduce hospital and doctor bills. If there aren’t an arms’-length relationship, the ethics of such a deal can be called into question.

You can call a non-practicing TV or “picture on bench or bus” lawyer who could refer you to another inexperienced lawyer for a fee. Or a friend could tell you about a lawyer. But the problem is that you only get one person’s view. Instead, look at the user reviews online of different accident attorneys. Also, vet your lawyer. And make sure he or she can wrap up your case to MAX your verdict or settlement.

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