The loss of a loved one can leave a gaping hole in your life. When that loss occurs due to another party’s carelessness, you may deserve compensation for your loss. While that compensation cannot bring back your loved one, it may provide you with much-needed funds to help pay final expenses and provide some cushion for the financial assistance your loved one provided for the family.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In order to establish whether you have grounds to file a wrongful death claim, your attorney will consider several key elements.
1) If your loved one had lived, could they have filed a personal injury claim?
If your loved one had the right to file a personal injury claim while alive, the surviving family members may have the right to file a wrongful death claim if that individual dies of their injuries.
2) What relationship do you have to the deceased?
Each family can file only one wrongful death claim per victim. The party with the closest family relationship to the deceased usually has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased was married, for example, the deceased’s spouse has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased no longer has a spouse or never got married, the deceased’s children may have the first right to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased has neither spouse nor children, the deceased’s parents can file that claim.
In some cases, other parties who receive financial support from the deceased may have the right to file a wrongful death claim: elderly family members supported by the deceased prior to the accident that led to his death, for example. Other times, the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death claim to help pay for final expenses.
What Compensation Can You Expect from a Wrongful Death Claim?
No amount of compensation can completely fill the hole in your life left by the loss of your loved one. The compensation you receive from a wrongful death claim can, however, make it possible for you to rebuild your life following the loss of a loved one. The funds you receive for the loss of a loved one can vary based on several factors.
Who caused your loved one’s death?
Did your loved one die in an auto accident? If so, the liable driver’s insurance company may determine the compensation you can receive through a wrongful death claim. If your loved one died in a premises liability accident, the liable party’s property insurance may cover the claim.
In order to determine who caused your loved one’s death and who you can file a wrongful death claim against, talk to your attorney about the circumstances that led to the accident. The attorney will consider:
- Who bore a duty of care to your loved one at the time of the accident. For example, in a nursing home abuse claim, the nursing home bore a high duty of care to your loved one and should have provided a high standard of care. If you need to pursue compensation after an auto accident, you may start with the assumption that every driver on the road bears a duty of care to every other driver, pedestrians, and cyclists who share the road.
- How someone violated that duty of care to your loved one. Did a speeding or distracted driver crash into your loved one? Did a nursing home fail to provide proper treatment or to protect your loved one from abuse? Did your loved one suffer injuries at a construction site because an electrician forgot to label live wiring?
- How that violation led or contributed to your loved one’s death. For example, if an electrician failed to label live wires on the construction site, but your loved one slipped off of scaffolding and died due to a head injury, the electrician might not share in the lawsuits you file following your loved one’s loss.
What direct financial losses did you face as a result of your loved one’s death?
A wrongful death claim aims to restore some of the financial losses you faced due to your loved one’s accident and loss. While you may not receive full compensation for all your losses, and an attorney cannot guarantee the funds you will actually receive, you should calculate all direct financial losses from the loss of your loved one. Financial losses may include:
- Your loved one’s final medical bills. You can file a wrongful death claim any time your loved one dies of their injuries, even if they did not die immediately after the accident.
- Reasonable expenses associated with your loved one’s funeral and burial. Funerals can prove very expensive, especially if you do not have funds set aside for that purpose. Many people struggle to make reasonable arrangements for a loved one if they die suddenly.
- The loss of your loved one’s income. For many people, losing the income from a specific family member, especially in a two-job household or a single working parent household, can prove devastating. A wrongful death claim seeks to restore some of those lost funds.
What indirect financial losses did you face as a result of the loss of your loved one?
Most people, in addition to providing a source of income for the family, also provide significant support in other ways. Your loved one may have provided child care, senior care, or handled cooking and cleaning responsibilities. Your loved one may also have taken care of tasks like cleaning, maintenance and repair on the home, or vehicle maintenance and repair. After the loss of your loved one, you may have to find other ways to take care of those tasks. Talk to an attorney about how you can include them as part of your wrongful death claim.
Did you lose a loved one due to another party’s negligence? An attorney can help you understand your legal right to compensation. Contact Chaikin LaPenna, PLLC today for a free consultation.