Steven A. Bagen | December 14, 2023 | Personal Injury
Losing a loved one is never easy, especially due to someone’s negligence. If you’ve lost a loved one in such a situation, consult a Gainesville wrongful death lawyer. File a claim for fair compensation, as settlements vary based on case specifics.
If you recently lost a loved one in an accident that resulted from someone else’s careless or reckless behavior, you or other surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim and pursue settlement compensation.
Since every fatal occurrence differs, there is no such thing as an average wrongful death settlement. Compensation can range from a few thousand dollars to millions, depending on the circumstances and how the case resolves.
If you are planning to file a wrongful death claim or a lawsuit due to your loved one’s untimely death, always consult an experienced legal counsel right away about your options.
A wrongful death lawyer can investigate the circumstances of your family member’s death and determine whether you are eligible to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
If you are, your attorney can handle every step of the process, including gathering important documents, assembling a settlement demand package, and negotiating with insurance company representatives on your behalf.
Also, if the insurance company does not offer a fair settlement, your lawyer can pursue wrongful death litigation through the state court system.
During this difficult time, your lawyer will aggressively advocate for your legal rights and interests.
Your attorney can answer all your questions so that you can take the steps necessary to secure the monetary recovery and justice you need to become whole again.
Occurrences That May Lead to a Wrongful Death Claim or Lawsuit
Many types of occurrences can lead to someone else’s premature death and the need for a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. First, a wrongful death claim results from the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal act of another party.
Some of the most common bases for a wrongful death claim or lawsuit include:
- Pedestrian accidents
- Medical negligence or malpractice
- Escalator and elevator accidents
- Boating accidents
- Passenger vehicle accidents
- Commercial vehicle accidents, including truck and bus crashes
- Motorcycle accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Mass transit accidents, including bus and train accidents
- Assaults and criminal violence
If you recently lost a loved one in one of these occurrences, then a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney in your area can determine your eligibility for filing a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault individual or entity.
Your attorney can gather important documents for your case and submit a claim to the insurance company adjuster handling the matter. Your attorney can also handle all oral and written communications with insurance company representatives and can aggressively negotiate on your behalf for a fair and reasonable settlement offer under the circumstances.
State Wrongful Death Laws Vary
Every state has laws providing the right to file for wrongful death. However, the details of these laws vary from state to state.
Some issues that are state-specific include:
- Whether family members can file the claim or the personal representative of the estate must file
- Which family members are eligible to recover compensation for wrongful death
- The type of damage available in a successful claim
- The timeframe for filing a wrongful death lawsuit
A lawyer in your state can explain the specific provisions that apply to your wrongful death case.
Eligibility for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
An individual’s eligibility to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit depends on the state (or jurisdiction) where the occurrence happened. In some jurisdictions, a surviving family member must first open an estate on behalf of the deceased individual.
The estate must then designate a personal representative to represent the estate’s interests. It is then the personal representative of the estate who files the wrongful death claim or a lawsuit in the court system.
In other jurisdictions, one or more family members may individually or collectively file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit. Surviving family members who can take legal action following their loved one’s death include surviving spouses, children, parents, siblings, and extended family members if no closer family exists to file the claim.
If you are contemplating filing a wrongful death claim or lawsuit arising from your loved one’s untimely death, an experienced wrongful death attorney in your jurisdiction can determine your eligibility for filing a claim.
If you move forward, your attorney can properly file the claim or lawsuit on your behalf and within the statute of limitations deadline for your jurisdiction.
Proving the Legal Elements of a Wrongful Death Case
In a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, the individual or entity that caused the incident does not need to prove anything or satisfy any legal burden of proof. Rather, the claimant, or the individual filing the wrongful death claim, has the sole legal burden of proof.
First, the claimant must establish that the at-fault individual or entity owed the deceased individual some legal duty of reasonable care. For example, if the deceased individual lost their life in a car accident that another driver caused, the wrongful death claimant must establish that the other driver owed the decedent a legal duty of care.
In general, drivers always have a duty to drive safely, carefully, prudently, and responsibly under the circumstances. They must also obey all traffic laws.
Second, the wrongful death claimant must show that the at-fault party violated the legal duty of care which they owed to the decedent. For example, in the context of a fatal motor vehicle crash, they might have violated one or more traffic laws, such as by operating a vehicle in an intoxicated manner or engaging in road rage.
Third, the wrongful death claimant must demonstrate that their deceased loved one’s occurrence directly resulted from the other party’s negligence. Finally, the claimant must establish that their deceased loved one passed away as a direct result of the occurrence.
In general, many insurance companies will look for a reason to try to deny liability for a wrongful death claim. Specifically, they may allege that the deceased individual’s death happened for some reason other than the subject occurrence.
In that situation, your attorney may retain an accident reconstructionist or a medical expert who can refute the insurance company’s assertions.
Your wrongful death lawyer will do everything possible to satisfy the legal elements of your claim or lawsuit so that you obtain monetary compensation from the insurance company.
Successfully Settling or Litigating a Wrongful Death Case
Settlement negotiations in a wrongful death case are often an uphill battle because insurance company representatives are frequently difficult and look for any excuse to try to undervalue a claim.
As a prerequisite to filing the wrongful death claim, your attorney can gather important documents to satisfy your case’s legal burden of proof. Those documents may include copies of police reports, medical treatment records, funeral and burial invoices, statements from employers that show the amount of money the decedent earned, and witness statements.
When it comes time to negotiate settlement compensation in the wrongful death claim, your attorney can highlight the strength of your case and establish the causal connection between the alleged negligent acts and your loved one’s untimely death.
If the insurance company still does not make you a fair settlement offer, then your lawyer may file a wrongful death lawsuit in the court system on your behalf. Your attorney can file this lawsuit immediately if the insurance company is disputing fault or liability for the occurrence.
During wrongful death litigation, your attorney may continue the settlement negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company. However, by that point, the court will establish dates and deadlines for certain case milestones, including discovery, a settlement conference, and a jury trial.
Your attorney can attend all these proceedings with you, produce evidence, and pursue the best possible result on your behalf.
If your case does not settle by the end of litigation, your attorney may resolve your case in a civil jury trial or pursue alternative dispute resolution in your case, such as mediation or arbitration.
During a mediation session, the parties will likely meet with a private or court-appointed mediator who acts neutral in the case. They will help the parties with their settlement discussions and work to resolve the case in a favorable way for everyone involved.
Similarly, at a binding arbitration proceeding, a third-party, neutral, pre-selected arbitrator will decide the issue of monetary damages after hearing from witnesses and reviewing documentary evidence, including police reports, medical bills, and expert reports.
Deciding whether to accept a settlement offer from the insurance company or litigate your case in the court system can be difficult. Your wrongful death lawyer will provide information so you can make an informed decision. Too many families unknowingly accept much less than they deserve without legal guidance.
Recovering Wrongful Death Damages
The total settlement compensation that a wrongful death claimant can recover will depend on the circumstances surrounding the occurrence and other factors. The total monetary settlement award that a wrongful death claimant may recover will also depend on the jurisdiction where the case is pending.
First, a wrongful death claimant may pursue economic damages. These damages may compensate claimants for their deceased loved one’s medical expenses up until their death, as well as all the costs associated with their funeral and burial.
Additionally, if the wrongful death claimant and other surviving family members depended on the decedent for financial support, the claimant may recover the decedent’s anticipated lost earnings.
In addition, a wrongful death claimant may seek non-economic damages for intangible losses they experienced due to their loved one’s untimely death.
Non-economic damages in a wrongful death claim may include monetary compensation for losing the decedent’s guidance, counsel, companionship, care, and comfort.
Finally, depending on the jurisdiction where the wrongful act occurred, a wrongful death claimant may be eligible to recover compensation for punitive damages.
Unlike compensatory damages, the primary purpose of punitive damages is to punish the at-fault individual or entity that caused the fatal occurrence. Another purpose is to discourage other individuals from committing similar wrongful acts.
Some jurisdictions have a cap on the amount of punitive damages that a wrongful death claimant may be eligible to recover via settlement or litigation.
Your wrongful death attorney can estimate the likely settlement value of your case and determine whether it is appropriate, given the facts and circumstances.
Speak with a Wrongful Death Lawyer in Your Area About Your Legal Options Today
No amount of money can ever take the place of a deceased loved one. However, if your loved one’s death resulted from someone else’s careless, negligent, or wrongful act, it can help to bring about a sense of finality, closure, and justice, both for you and other surviving family members.
If you recently lost a loved one in an occurrence that resulted from someone else’s negligent actions or inactions, time is of the essence. This is because, under the state statute of limitations, a wrongful death claimant must file a lawsuit within two years of the decedent’s death.
If they fail to file their lawsuit in a timely manner, then the court will almost always dismiss their case, preventing them from recovering any monetary compensation for their deceased loved one’s untimely death.
Given the time constraints in a wrongful death claim or lawsuit, always retain experienced legal counsel to handle your case immediately.
As soon as you retain a personal injury attorney in Gainesville to represent you, they can enter an appearance on your behalf, start gathering documents, and submit a complete settlement demand package to the insurer, initiating settlement negotiations.
During settlement negotiations, your attorney will aggressively advocate on your behalf and work to resolve your case efficiently. Finally, if litigation becomes necessary, your attorney will explore all your legal options and provide you with the necessary information to make intelligent and informed decisions throughout your case.
Your attorney will take all the necessary steps to maximize the compensation you deserve for the loss of your loved one and work to achieve the closure and justice that you and other surviving family members need at this difficult time.