In case a person dies due to negligence or misconduct by another person/persons, the family members of the deceased have the option to sue the culprit/culprits for financial compensation. Such a lawsuit over negligent death is termed a Wrongful Death lawsuit.
Every state has a statute that applies to these claims. Let's look at Fort Worth, Texas. Fort Worth, with a population of more than 900,000, ranks as the state's fifth-largest metropolis. The city sees thousands of auto accidents annually. The high population density and the resulting gridlock on the city's highways and interstates increase the likelihood of traffic collisions.
The following are the numbers for car accidents in Fort Worth in 2019:
- Due to a car accident, 5,794 persons were hurt.
- These 344 victims all have pretty significant injuries.
- Sadly, 99 lives were lost due to tragic accidents in Fort Worth.
So how is justice delivered in a lawsuit over negligent death? Here is where wrongful death attorneys come into the picture.
- An injury seeds a person's death or stops a fetus from being born into the world.
- The said injury is caused by “wrongful or harm intended act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of the defendant person or persons.
- The person injured, had they survived, would have been entitled to file a personal injury lawsuit.
Many types of events can be the basis of the Wrongful Death Lawsuit. These include:
- Incidents caused by negligence such as car accidents.
- Incidents caused by Medical malpractices.
- Incidents caused by intentional acts such as criminal activities.
Wrongful Death vs. Criminal Homicide
The biggest difference between wrongful death and criminal homicide cases is that the prosecution must only prove the defendant's liability by “preponderance of the evidence” for wrongful death lawsuits. This means that the defendant is most likely responsible for the death. However, for criminal homicide, the burden on the prosecution is much higher as they need to establish the guilt of the defendant “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The defendant may be sued for wrongful death in a civil court while they are facing criminal charges as well for the same incident.
Eligibility To File Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Each state has its own rules regarding who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. Every state allows the claim to be filed by immediate family members of the deceased. For Texas, these may include:
- A surviving spouse.
- A child who is an adult.
- A parent.
- Suppose none of the above has filed any claim within three months of the victim's death. In that case, the court may allow a personal representative, also known as an executor, to file the wrongful death claim on the family members' behalf unless they have specifically requested that the claim not be filed.
Most states allow only one wrongful death claim to be filed. In case there is a dispute between family members of the victim and multiple cases are filed for the same incident, the court typically consolidates the cases into one lawsuit.
Types Of Damages
In a successful case, a compensation amount may be awarded by the court to the surviving family members of the deceased based on the following criteria:
- Loss of current earning capacity.
- Loss of future promotions and bonuses as may have been expected.
- Loss of care, maintenance, service, support, advice, and counsel that the deceased may have provided to their family members.
- Loss of love, companionship, comfort, and society.
- Mental anguish and pain faced by the deceased's family.
- Lost inheritance that the deceased would have left for his family members.
- Exemplary or punitive damages only if the death resulted from a “willful act or omission or gross negligence.” This is not to compensate the family for losses incurred but to punish the culprit and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.
Statute Of Limitations
A wrongful death claim may only be filed within a certain period set by a statute of limitations law. According to this law, the wrongful death claim may only be filed within two years of the person's death.
An experienced lawyer can help file a wrongful death lawsuit if one has been a victim of such misfortune. The loss of a loved one is hard, but at least one can ensure that justice is served in the court of law.