Did you just lose a loved one as a result of negligence or harmful intent? As the bills start to pile up you realize that the family is facing a loss of future earning capacity. How can you ever recover? Somebody mentioned that you ought to file a wrongful death suit, but will that help with decades of expenses?
A Wrongful Death Suit Holds Them Accountable for Their Negligence
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to hold the party or parties responsible for their actions that directly contributed to the death of an individual. This is not used to put them in jail, but rather force them to provide monetary compensation. The monies paid out by the defendant in this type of lawsuit are called damages. There are three parts to the damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Compensating the Victim’s Family for Expenses and Future Earnings
The economic damages awarded by the courts in this kind of suit generally are meant to pay for the costs associated with the death of the victim. This can include their future earnings, as the dependents left behind would have relied on that income to pay for their home, food, clothing, and even education. Of course, the economic damages should also include any medical and funeral expenses.
What if the Deceased didn’t have a job?
If the person that died was a stay-at-home mother or father, that does not mean that you cannot file for future compensation. In some cases, you can be awarded the cost of paying for daycare, meals, laundry, or other services that were completed by the homemaker. The courts recognize that their time and labor provided a real benefit to the family.
Is a Wrongful Death Suit a Criminal or Civil Proceeding?
If a person dies at the hands of another person through intent or by gross negligence, the police and District Attorney can file criminal charges against those deemed responsible. This is not a wrongful death suit. The criminal case is meant to punish those at fault and prevent it from happening again. A wrongful death suit is filed in the civil courts and has a two-fold purpose; to compensate the families or dependents of the victim and to monetarily punish those that are guilty.
Who can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
In most jurisdictions, the immediate family of the deceased can file the wrongful death suit. This can include spouses, children, parents, and even the executor of the estate. However, there is little time to delay. The suit must be filed within three months of death. You cannot wait for a criminal trial to happen as that can take several years.
It’s About More than the Money
Does it feel like you are simply going after the people with the big pockets? The loss of a loved one and a family provider will be devastating on more levels than your finances. The entire family can face mental health challenges that require treatment as you try to make sense out of an untimely death. You have lost a friend, companion, lover, and even a sense of social inclusion. The suit gives you a format to make yourself heard by those that may not want to listen. It can even provide a sense of closure and healing for the entire family.
What Are Punitive Damages?
We mentioned three types of damages that included punitive as well as economic and non-economic damages. The punitive portion of the damages is intended solely to punish the party or parties that the court found responsible. There is great leeway in the final amount decided by the courts. If the defendant has limited funds, it may be just a few thousand dollars. It will still pose a financial hardship to them. Large corporations with deep pockets are more likely to have sizable damages issued as it will take a larger amount to actually impact their ability to continue to operate. Punitive damages are tacked on top of any compensatory findings made in your favor.
They were never charged. Can I still file a Wrongful Death Suit?
There are times when a person dies as a result of a poor policy or unsafe working conditions and the law enforcement officers are unable to bring criminal charges against a person for a variety of reasons. You may still be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible person or persons. It can be more difficult to build a case, but with the help of an experienced attorney, you can explore the details and create a plan of action.
The most important thing to remember is that your loss of future earning capacity is a result of somebody’s bad actions or lack of care for their fellow humans. You do not deserve to continue to suffer for the rest of your life. A wrongful death lawsuit can help to provide closure and financial support for those left behind.
Interesting related article: “What is a Lawsuit?”