When a loved one has died as a result of an accident, family members are able to recover damages for their loss. Each state has their own laws that govern wrongful death and survivor-ship claims. By hiring the experienced attorneys at Murphy & Pressentin, you can rest assured that individual state laws are abided by and statutes of limitations are followed, enabling you to recover everything you deserve for your loss.
WRONGFUL DEATH AND SURVIVAL ACTIONS
The carnage from accidents on our roads and highways is a major source of death and injury in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, in 2017, 37,133 fatalities occurred on U.S. roadways due to crashes.
Wrongful Death is defined as a fatality caused by “the wrongful act or neglect of another.”
Negligent driving is the cause of most wrongful death claims. Most of these cases are brought against people who cause accidental deaths while driving carelessly. Examples of careless driving include running a red light, driving at unsafe speeds, or using a cell phone instead of watching the road. A negligent driver’s automobile liability insurance will cover claims made up to the policy limits. Some drivers have additional insurance (such as umbrella coverage provided by a homeowner’s policy) that can also be used to pay compensation for a loss caused by negligent driving. An experienced injury attorney will be able to conduct an investigation to locate any additional policies or sources of compensation.
Who possesses the wrongful death claim? State law allows certain people (usually heirs – spouse, children, parents, or siblings) to bring a claim for compensation for their losses that resulted from their loved one’s wrongful death. The claim may be made directly to the negligent driver’s insurer or filed in court action.
How long do I have to bring a wrongful death claim? State law limits the time within which all injury claims must either be resolved by settlement or filed in a civil court action. State laws vary, but most have limitations of two years from the day of the accident (California, Illinois) while others have three years (Wisconsin). Some states have only one year (Tennessee). It’s important that you understand exactly how long you have to bring your claim. If you miss the limitations period by even one day, your right to compensation will be lost forever.
What is a survivor-ship claim? While the wrongful death claim compensates family members for their losses due to a loved one’s demise, a survivor-ship claim is a claim made by the deceased’s estate for compensation for the losses the deceased incurred prior to passing. This would include any medical expenses or lost wages during hospitalization. Some states (not California) permit the estate to seek damages for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced prior to death.
Damages recovered through a survivor-ship claim become the property of the deceased’s estate and are distributed to the deceased’s heirs.
What compensation can be awarded for wrongful death? In addition to the losses to the estate that can be pursued through a survivor-ship claim, family members may seek compensation for their own losses. Family members may claim economic and non-economic damages in wrongful death claims.
The following are four economic damages that can be claimed:
- Financial support that the decedent would have contributed to the family.
- Loss of gifts or benefits the decedent would have given had they enjoyed their normal life expectancy.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Reasonable value of household services that the decedent would have provided.
The following are three non-economic damages that can be claimed:
- Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support.
- Loss of enjoyment of sexual relations.
- Loss of decedent’s training and guidance.
When you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities to help bring justice for your suffering and compensation to your pain. The team of personal injury professionals at Murphy & Pressentin can help you recover monetary compensation for the losses to you and your family.
COMPENSATION CANNOT BRING BACK MY LOVED ONE. WHY SHOULD I SEEK IT?
No amount of compensation can restore a lost life. No award of damages will replace the love you received from a family member who died. However, monetary compensation – an award of dollars – is the method by which our civil justice system dispenses justice. If you are entitled to compensation, there are several reasons you should seek it.
REPLACE FINANCIAL SUPPORT. You will find it difficult to go on without the support of your lost spouse or relative. However, your burden should not be made heavier by losing the financial support and services your loved one provided. If you depended on that person’s income to help pay for housing, food, tuition, transportation, clothing, or other expenses, you should not be deprived of those necessities due to another person’s wrongful or careless conduct. Your loved one wanted you to have those things. Bringing a claim to replace the lost income assures that you will have what your loved one wanted you to have.
DETERRING FUTURE MISCONDUCT. Every claim for injuries sends a message. People who know they will be held accountable for their carelessness are less likely to be careless. Insurance companies that pay money for injuries and death are more likely to lobby for increased safety standards and for stricter enforcement of laws designed to prevent fatal accidents.
PERSONAL SATISFACTION. You are not able to take legal action to send a person to jail for their conduct, which is for the criminal justice system over which you have no control. However, by pursuing wrongful death damages you can assure that the person is held financially responsible for his or her conduct. The sense of justice that you can receive from a settlement or verdict may give you a sense of closure that you would not otherwise experience.