Losing a loved one can completely disrupt the lives of the victim’s family members and close friends. If you have recently lost a loved one, the last thing that’s probably on your mind is filing a lawsuit. But, if your loved one was killed because of another person’s negligence, you should contact an attorney to discuss the possibility of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. No amount of money can bring your loved one back, but you may be able to recover compensation that will help you move forward in your life.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case brought against a person accused of causing another person’s death. Each state has its own laws that cover what a wrongful death is, who can file the lawsuit, and how long you have to file it. Here’s what you need to know about wrongful death in the state of Iowa:
Defining Wrongful Death
There is no specific statute that precisely defines wrongful death in Iowa. Therefore, any death caused by the negligence or wrongful act of another may be considered a wrongful death. This is a fairly loose definition, which means wrongful deaths can take many forms. For example, a drunk driver who collides with another vehicle and kills the driver could be sued for wrongful death. A doctor who makes a fatal mistake during a surgical procedure could also be held liable for the victim’s death. The key to winning a wrongful death lawsuit is proving the defendant’s negligent behavior directly caused the victim’s death.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
A death can affect a lot of people within a close group of family members and friends. Everyone may want the opportunity to fight for justice on behalf of their loved one, but only certain people are allowed to officially file a wrongful death lawsuit in Iowa. These people include the administrator of the victim’s estate, the victim’s spouse, the victim’s children, and the victim’s parents. If the victim did not leave behind a will or appoint an administrator to his estate prior to his death, it’s possible the court will ask that an administrator be named before the wrongful death lawsuit is filed.
It’s important for surviving family members to understand the wrongful death lawsuit is kept completely separate from any criminal charges the defendant may face. For example, if the wrongful death was a result of a car accident, the defendant may face vehicular homicide charges. These charges will be dealt with in criminal court, and the outcome of that case will not affect the outcome of your civil lawsuit. It’s possible that the defendant will be found innocent in his criminal case, but then also be ordered to pay your family damages in the civil case.
Surviving family members have two years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a lawsuit against the responsible parties. After this two year mark has passed, you will have lost your chance to seek justice against the person who caused your loved one’s death. This may seem like a long time, but it goes by quickly, especially if you are still grieving the loss. It’s best to contact an attorney right away to begin the process of filing a lawsuit instead of waiting until the deadline is approaching.
Damages for Wrongful Death
In criminal cases, the defendant will be punished with jail time, fines, or community service if he is found liable. But, that’s not the case in civil lawsuits. The parties that are legally permitted to file a wrongful death civil lawsuit may be able to recover damages from the defendant if he is found liable for the victim’s death. Any compensation that is recovered will either be awarded directly to the surviving family members, or to the victim’s estate.
Family members may be entitled to several types of compensation, the first being compensation that covers anything that happened between the time of the accident and the time of the victim’s death. For example, if the victim was treated in a hospital prior to his death, you may be able to recover compensation for the medical expenses he incurred during this time. This type of compensation may also cover funeral expenses, the victim’s lost wages, and the victim’s pain and suffering prior to his death.
The defendant may also be ordered to compensate the victim’s family for any losses they have suffered as a result of the wrongful death. This category of damages is awarded when the surviving family members can prove they were financially dependent on the victim. For example, minor children may be able to recover compensation to help replace the victim’s income that they relied upon to survive.
Family members may also be awarded pain and suffering and loss of consortium damages to compensate them for the emotional losses they have suffered as a result of the defendant’s negligence. If the court finds the defendant acted with extreme negligence, family members may also be awarded punitive damages. This type of compensation is awarded to punish the defendant and deter others from making the same mistakes.
But remember, compensation is never a guarantee in wrongful death lawsuits, even if you feel as though you have a strong case against the defendant. A number of factors can affect how much, if any, compensation you receive. To increase your chances of recovering the compensation you and your family deserve, it’s strongly recommended you work with an experienced attorney.
If you believe your loved one’s death was caused by someone else’s negligence, contact us today to discuss your case with a team of compassionate and experienced attorneys. Our attorneys can fight for justice on behalf of your deceased family member and help you recover compensation to cover any medical or funeral expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.