Wrongful death occurs when the negligent conduct of an individual or company causes death. These claims include car collisions, medical negligence, occupational accidents and deaths caused by defective products. Statutes are in place in each state to establish procedures for bringing actions against the responsible party or parties; in most cases, it is called a Wrongful Death Statute. These statutes list the proper litigants allowed to file suit in a wrongful death, including survivors such as spouses, children, parents and siblings among others. Wrongful death attorneys experienced in these lawsuits are able to walk clients through the essential details of your case to bring optimum results.
Four main causes of wrongful death are medical negligence (resulting in death), vehicle or public transportation injuries causing death (such as airplane or trains), product related injuries (including exposure to hazardous substances) and deaths during supervised activities. The death must be caused by the negligent conduct of the defendant which causes financial, physical and/or emotional loss for the victim's survivors. In order to file a wrongful death case, you must be entitled to sue according to your state's laws.
If you lost a loved one due to one of the causes described above, it is important to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Wrongful death lawyers experienced in wrongful death litigation know how gather all of the necessary information and evidence and how to successfully prosecute a wrongful death claim.
A. What to do if there is a possibility of a wrongful death
There are strict limitations periods within which wrongful death lawsuits must be filed. Therefore, it is very important to consult an attorney whenever you believe you might have a wrongful death claim. An experienced attorney can answer all of your questions about wrongful death lawsuits and help you achieve compensation for the loss of means of support and the loss of aid, comfort and society.
B. When questions arise about a death
When questions arise about a wrongful death, begin taking notes. In the case of medical negligence, write down times, dates, names of doctors, nurses, tests, medications and even visitors. In the case of motor vehicle collisions or product liability claims, again, begin taking notes. An experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to determine from your notes a list of potential witnesses and by asking additional questions, can assess the validity of your claim and the likelihood of a possible positive outcome in litigation.
C. The Discovery Rule and Time Limitations
The discovery rule and time limitations are set in what is called the “statute of limitations”. These limitation periods may begin from the date of death in some areas, yet in others, it may depend on when the claimant discovers, or should have discovered, the connection to the death and its probable cause as a wrongful death. Many states require the appointment of a personal representative to the case before a wrongful death claim can be properly commenced. Varying causes, such as toxic materials or disease, may have different time requirements in some states.
To determine how much time may be left in a possible wrongful death case, it is essential to contact an attorney experienced in wrongful deaths as soon as possible. It can not be more strongly emphasized that it is imperative to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible if wrongful death is even suspected. The claimant's rights to file suit in a wrongful death case are permanently waived if the time limitation has passed in most cases, and you will NOT be able to recover damages. A skilled wrongful death lawyer that is experienced is able to determine the time limitation and all information needed to succeed in a wrongful death case.
Laws are in place for some states to allow survivors to still file suit after the normal time limitation period has expired but prior to the time that the claimant could have reasonably discovered the basis for bringing a claim. These states see the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit as fundamental. There may be a discovery rule that can be applied in these cases to establish whether the victim did know, or should have known, the cause of the illness or injury before death.
When wrongful death occurs due to a defective product, there may be a special limitation period that starts upon death whether or not the claimant knew of the cause of death. There are also some states that have statutes of repose that exclude liability claims simply because a product has reached a certain age.
State laws may differ in the case of deaths caused by harmful substances in regard to time limitation periods. The main limitation period may be from the date of the death that ends no matter when the cause of death was discovered. Some laws may provide for a discovery rule which permits a claimant to file a wrongful death lawsuit within a time period based on when the claimant knew or should have reasonably discovered that a wrongful death claim existed.
No matter what the cause of a wrongful death, because of the various state specific time limitation periods, it is important to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Even if there is only a possibility of a wrongful death claim, it is better to find out as soon as possible if there is a viable case and what time limitations may be applicable.