Wrongful Death Lawsuits: 10 Key Things to Know

Untimely death is difficult to accept for family members of the deceased. The loss is especially grave when it was due to negligence. In such instances, the experience of a wrongful death lawyer is critical. With laws differing in different locations, from Miami Beach to Long Beach, legal counsel can help you get the justice your loved one deserves.

Learn more about this type of lawsuit so you’re guided accordingly.

1.  What constitutes a wrongful death?

There are four key elements that define wrongful death: negligence, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Negligence refers to the defendant’s actions or inactions. It can be due to his or her carelessness, recklessness, or any negligent actions that led to the victim’s death.

Breach of duty refers to the defendant’s negligence of his duty to the victim, causing the death. Causation pertains to the direct relation of the defendant’s action on the victim’s death. Damages pertain to the quantifiable damages that resulted from the victim’s death. This can be financial and emotional damages.

2. Who can sue for wrongful death?

In all states, surviving spouses and children may file for wrongful death lawsuit. If the children involved are minor, they may seek help from a guardian. In some states, extended family members may file as well. A representative of the estate may also file a lawsuit.

In New York, however, you can only file a claim if you’re also a personal representative of the deceased individual’s estate. Otherwise, even if you were a relative, you would not be able to file a suit claiming wrongful death.

3. Does insurance cover wrongful death?

There are instances when insurance covers wrongful death, particularly when negligence triggered the accident. Liability insurance may apply.

4. How long can you sue for wrongful death?

States have different statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits. In New York, you have to file one within two years of the deceased individual’s death. In some states, the statute of limitations can take longer such as when the defendant is a minor or has a mental disability. Not so, in the Big Apple. The courts expect the guardian to file, as such, the clock doesn’t stop when the deceased is a child or incapable.

5. How much is the average wrongful death settlement?

There is no “average” amount of settlement per se because each case depends on several factors namely:

  • The victim’s earning potential
  • The insurance policy limits of the party at-fault
  • The victim’s age
  • The type of accident he or she was involved in that caused the death
  • Whether the victim survived for a certain time after the accident occurred

6. Is money received from wrongful death lawsuit taxable?

The IRS does not impose taxes if it deems the money as compensatory proceeds. Compensatory means it is the defendant’s compensation for the emotional damages the incidence caused. On the other hand, if agency considers the money as income (i.e., an award for lost wages), income taxes apply.

7. Can you sue a hospital for wrongful death?

Yes, along with the doctor, nurse, and other staff members you deem may be responsible.

8. What damages are awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit?

There are three categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic refers to the expenses incurred as a result of the accident, including the probable financial support the victim could have provided. Non-economic is the compensation for emotional distress. Punitive is the compensation for when your lawyer proves the defendant acted in bad faith.

9. How does wrongful death suit work?

troubled client talking to his lawyer

Once your lawyer files a wrongful death claim, parties may settle the case. If both parties can’t reach a settlement, the claim moves to trial. A judge or jury will enter a verdict at the end of the trial.

10. How do you prove wrongful death?

As a plaintiff, you need to prove elements of wrongful death. These elements are duty of care, breach of duty of care, and causation. So you have the burden of proof, which means hiring a seasoned attorney who can help you prove your case.

A death in family is tough, but one that is borne out of someone’s negligence is even tougher. Get legal counsel and fight to get the justice your loved one deserves.

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