No one looks forward to dying, especially not because of someone else’s mistake. When it happens, the last thing family and friends need is to worry about navigating complicated legal procedures. Unfortunately, laws can be confusing and difficult to understand, meaning you may need a wrongful death attorney. This article provides an overview of seven common wrongful death statutes.
1. Statute of Limitations
This law puts a duration limitation on the period a person has to file a case. The statute of limitations varies from state to state, but generally, the time limit is two years from the date of the person's death. Therefore, if you want to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you must do so within two years of the date of the person's death. If you file within this period, you will be allowed to do so. The statute of limitations is necessary because it ensures that people immediately file a lawsuit. If people waited too long, they would not be able to gather evidence and witnesses, and their case would be much harder to win. The statute of limitations is in place to protect people's rights, and you must be aware of it.
2. Nominations and Appointments
In the event of a wrongful death, state laws typically require that someone be appointed or nominated to represent and administer any damages awarded. This is usually done by the next of kin, although the court may appoint someone else if there is reasonable cause. The estate executor distributes the assets per the law and the deceased's wishes. Sometimes, this may involve setting up a trust fund to provide financial security for loved ones. Regardless of the specifics, it is essential to have a plan in place in case of an untimely death. Following the proper procedures can help ensure that your loved ones are taken care of financially and emotionally.
3. Eligibility for Damages
States have different criteria for determining who can receive damages awarded in a wrongful death case. Generally speaking, this will involve close family members such as spouses and children, although there may be certain exceptions based on state laws. Therefore, it's essential to research your local laws or consult an attorney before attempting to file a claim.
4. Punitive Damages
In some cases, punitive damages may be available in addition to compensatory damages awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. These are meant to punish wrongdoers for particularly egregious behavior and are only available if the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with gross negligence or intentional malice.
5. Contribution from Surviving Spouse
In most states, a surviving spouse is entitled to an equitable portion of damages awarded in a wrongful death case. This typically applies even if the deceased were not married at the time of their death and had no children.
6. Wrongful Death Actions
Many states allow for separate wrongful death actions to be filed by each family member who suffered due to the lost loved one's death. Each action can seek damages, though they are sometimes consolidated if appropriate under state law.
7. Pre-Death Injury Claims
In some cases, it may be possible for the surviving family members to seek compensation for any injuries suffered by their deceased loved one before their death.
These are just a few laws that apply to wrongful death cases. Consult with an attorney if you have a case, as state laws vary and can be complicated. An experienced attorney can provide advice based on your particular situation and help ensure that all applicable laws are adhered to.