Wrongful death claims are civil cases that are brought against defendants responsible for someone else’s death. A wrongful death claim allows the family members of the victim to seek justice against the defendant and recover compensation for expenses they have incurred and losses they have suffered. But, how do you know if you should file a claim? Here are the questions that you must ask yourself to determine if you have a wrongful death case:
Did someone die?
The first element that you will have to prove in a wrongful death case is that someone was killed in some sort of incident involving the defendant. This is the easiest element that must be proven, but it is crucial to your case.
Was the death caused by another person’s negligence?
In order to recover compensation in a wrongful death case, the plaintiffs must be able to prove that the defendant’s negligence lead to the death of their loved one. The first step is proving that the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim. A duty of care is a legal term that basically means the defendant had the legal obligation to act reasonably and responsibly. For example, drivers must act reasonably and responsibly by driving sober and obeying all of the traffic laws.
Next, you must prove that the defendant breached the duty of care, meaning he failed to act as a reasonable and responsible person. Using the same example, a driver that gets behind the wheel while intoxicated is breaching the duty of care owed to other drivers on the road. A driver that runs a stop sign is also breaching the duty of care owed to other driver because he is not obeying traffic laws.
But, proving that the defendant simply broke the law or breached his duty of care is not enough to win your wrongful death case. The plaintiff must also prove that the breach of the duty of care directly led to the victim’s death. Let’s say the driver breached the duty of care by running through a stop sign. If he collided with the victim’s vehicle because he ran through the stop sign, this shows that his negligent actions directly led to the victim’s fatal injuries. However, if the victim’s death had nothing to do with the defendant’s reckless decision to run through the stop sign, then he cannot be held accountable for the victim’s death.
Proving negligence is the hardest part of a wrongful death case, but an attorney can help.
Am I legally permitted to file a wrongful death case?
Many people may grieve the loss of a loved one, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who is in mourning is able to file a wrongful death claim. Each state has its own laws regarding who is allowed to file a wrongful death case. In Iowa, the administrator of the victim’s estate, the victim’s spouse, the victim’s children, and the victim’s parents can all file a wrongful death claim. This means that the victim’s siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and all other extended family members cannot file a claim unless they have been named as the administrator of the victim’s estate. If the victim did not name an administrator for her estate prior to her death, the court will have to appoint one.
How long has it been since the death?
Each state also puts time limits on how long surviving family members have to file a wrongful death claim. In the state of Iowa, the victim’s family members have two years from the date of the victim’s death to initiate a claim. If you do not file a claim before this deadline, the court will almost always throw out your case.
Two years may seem like a long time, but it can fly by if you are trying to move forward after losing a loved one. It’s important to act quickly to ensure that you don’t miss this deadline. Sometimes, there may be a criminal case pending against the defendant that is responsible for your loved one’s death. For example, if your loved one was killed by a drunk driver, he may be facing criminal charges as a result of his actions. But, there’s no reason to wait for the criminal case to wrap up before filing your civil case. It’s best to file your wrongful death claim as soon as possible.
Have I incurred expenses or suffered losses as a result of the death?
You will not be awarded compensation in a wrongful death case unless you can show that you have incurred expenses or suffered losses as a result of the death. Did you pay for the victim’s funeral? This is an expense that most families incur after losing a loved one, and they may be able to recover compensation for it in a wrongful death case.
Were you financially dependent on the victim? If so, you will now have lost the victim’s income, which you may be able to recover in a wrongful death case. But, what if you weren’t financially dependent on the victim? Family members in this situation can still recover compensation for other losses, including the loss of care, guidance, love, and companionship. It can be challenging to quantify these losses, but an attorney can help you calculate the value of your claim.
If your loved one has been killed because of the negligent acts of another person, contact Trial Lawyers for Justice today to schedule a consultation regarding your case. Our experienced attorneys will learn more about the tragic incident and let you know if you should file a wrongful death claim. Then, we will work tirelessly to help you recover the compensation that you deserve.