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WRONGFUL DEATH ATTORNEYS
The untimely loss of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences you can go through. If you lost a family member to someone else's negligence, you deserve legal support. Sudden and unexpected death often leads to financial hardship, but a wrongful death suit can help you recover damages.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is a death that results directly from another person's negligence or recklessness. In some cases, intentional acts may also constitute a wrongful death claim. Wrongful death suits are similar in many ways to personal injury cases. However, because the individual is no longer around to pursue damages, the family or family representative files the suit instead.
One of the most common types of wrongful death cases is car accidents. Tens of thousands die yearly in traffic collisions, many caused by negligence or recklessness. The following are some other everyday situations that result in wrongful death suits:
- Medical malpractice
- Sporting accidents
- Violent crime
- Slip and fall cases
- Workplace injuries
- Dog attacks
- Nursing home abuse
- Product defects
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims
A wrongful death case is a civil lawsuit. The family seeks compensation from the person or entity that caused the death. Families need to understand that the case is not a criminal claim. The lawsuit will not result in prison time or fines and does not involve the district attorney. However, criminal prosecution sometimes happens at the same time. If criminal acts were involved in the death, the state might pursue a separate criminal case.
A wrongful death case begins with a thorough investigation of the death and its contributing factors. Your attorney will identify the parties responsible and uncover evidence that supports the wrongful death claim. Then, your lawyer will issue a demand to the defendant. The demand is a proposed agreement for the defendant to provide compensation so that the plaintiff does not file a lawsuit. If the at-fault party agrees, your attorney will resolve the matter out of court. If not, you and your lawyer will prepare for the lawsuit.
Another critical step is the deposition, a witness’s out-of-court sworn testimony. The deposition could be used later in a trial. Both attorneys will speak to the people directly involved, witnesses, medical experts, and any other parties whose input could affect the case’s outcome. The deposition helps the lawyers uncover important information and understand the witnesses' testimonies before the trial.
The deposition also sometimes results in a settlement. If the testimonies indicate that the trial will sway one way or another, one party may become more likely to negotiate. In other cases, the lawsuit goes to trial, and the deposition transcript becomes a valuable resource for the case.
Wrongful death cases can sometimes be resolved in just a few months. If it's easy to prove liability, most of the negotiations will revolve around the amount of compensation awarded. If proving liability is more complicated, you should expect the legal proceedings to last longer. These cases typically end in a court trial and can take years to conclude.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
States have varying laws about which family members can file a wrongful death claim. In Nevada, the decedent's heirs and the personal representative can file a wrongful death claim. The surviving family members eligible to file the suit include the spouse, children, siblings, and parents. However, Nevada sets a hierarchy for heirs. If the decedent has a surviving spouse or child, they must file the claim. If there were no surviving spouse or children, a parent would be next to file the wrongful death claim. A sibling is allowed to file if the decedent doesn’t have a surviving spouse, children, or parents. The personal representative is named in the decedent's will and is usually an heir.
The laws in Arizona are slightly different. Only a spouse, child, parent, or guardian can file a wrongful death claim. A personal representative can also file on behalf of a surviving relative. If the decedent doesn't have any surviving relatives, the representative will file on behalf of the state. Unlike in Nevada, siblings in Arizona cannot file the claim.
Proving Wrongful Death
Proving wrongful death is not always a straightforward process. You'll need to prove four elements to win your case:
Duty of care: The defendant was responsible for protecting the safety and well-being of the deceased person. For example, a doctor is responsible for providing safe medical care, and a driver must drive safely.
Breach of duty of care: The defendant neglected their duty of care. They acted negligently or recklessly and disregarded their responsibility to protect the decedent’s safety.
Causation: The defendant is the only party responsible for the death. There must be a direct link between the breached duty of care and the loss of life. For instance, if other factors beyond a driver's negligence contributed to a fatal car accident, wrongful death will be more challenging to prove.
Damages: The decedent and the family suffered damages due to negligence. Hospital bills, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages are examples of damages.
Wrongful Death Damages
There is no limit on damages awarded in wrongful death lawsuits in Arizona or Nevada. The compensation you may receive depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the case. You can seek compensation for your family member's losses before they passed away. For instance, hospital bills from before their death are considered damages.
You can also seek compensation for your family's losses. If a spouse or children relied financially on the decedent, they could seek monetary support. Damages can include compensation for the loss of assistance around the house, loss of companionship, funeral or burial expenses, and pain and suffering.
The court considers several factors when determining the amount of damages to award, including the victim's age, earning potential and medical expenses. Sometimes, the defendant pays the damages directly. In other cases, an insurance company provides the payment. Most states require that drivers carry liability insurance, and doctors carry malpractice insurance that protects them from lawsuits.
Contact Us for Support
Lloyd Baker Injury Attorneys handles wrongful death cases in Phoenix and Las Vegas. When you're recovering from losing your loved one, legal proceedings are probably the last thing on your mind. However, a wrongful death lawsuit is often the best way to recover your financial losses. We understand how painful this experience is, and we're prepared to fight for your case so that you can focus on healing. If you're looking for a wrongful death attorney in Phoenix or Las Vegas, contact Lloyd Baker Injury Attorneys today.