A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit that is filed by the surviving members of an individual killed as the result of an accident. This can be a traffic accident, a slip and fall, a work-related accident, or any number of similar incidences. In order to file a wrongful death claim, a plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant had a duty of care to the decedent and that the duty was breached through negligence on behalf of the defendant. The plaintiff must also be able to show that financial burdens have been placed on surviving family members as a result of the death of the individual.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Although laws vary from state to state, each state stipulates who can initiate a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawyer Savannah Ga can explain the law in regard to families in that jurisdiction. Typically, this limits qualified persons to the surviving spouse, surviving children, or parents of the decedent. In some states, the parents of a deceased fetus can sue for wrongful death, though the same conditions for proving the case apply.
An entire family won’t usually be permitted to file together as a group. Instead, a personal representative may be chosen to represent the interests of the decedent’s estate in the lawsuit. Although the personal representative represents the estate in court, he or she may not receive the award for damages. Typically, the damages are divided up in accordance with the decedent’s will.
Who Can and Cannot be Sued in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed against an individual, a business or corporation, or a government agency. In some cases, a wrongful death complaint may name several defendants, depending on the wrongful death lawyer Savannah Ga working for your family. In regards to a traffic accident that resulted in the death of an individual, the other drivers might be named as defendants, as well as the designer of the road on which the accident occurred, a government agency for failing to provide adequate safety warnings, and the manufacturers of the vehicles involved. If the at fault driver was intoxicated, the establishment at which he had been served drinks might also be named.
Under some state laws, government agencies and employees of those agencies may be immune from being named in wrongful death lawsuits. The nature of the death may also establish immunity. For instance, Mutual Pharmaceutical Co., Inc. v. Bartlett determined that the maker of a generic prescription drug cannot be sued for wrongful death for selling an alleged “unreasonably dangerous” drug, when the FDA had already approved the brand name of the same drug.
What Damages Can be Recovered?
There are many different types of damages a family can be awarded in a wrongful death lawsuit. They will likely receive damages to cover medical bills and burial expenses and lost wages, which estimates the total money the decedent would have earned within his or her lifetime. Compensatory damages to reimburse the family for the pain and suffering caused by the loss of the individual may also be awarded.
In some cases, a jury may also award punitive damages. This is a sum applied more to punish the defendant than to compensate the plaintiff. Typically, this is an amount significant enough to cause a burden to the defendant, especially where the defendant is a corporation or government agency.
How Does Probate Affect a Wrongful Death Settlement?
There is a statute of limitations on filing a wrongful death lawsuit and, for most states, that limit is two years. For that reason, probate may be well underway by the time a wrongful death lawsuit goes through the trial process and reaches a verdict. Typically, those receiving a portion of the settlement may not be the same individuals named as beneficiaries in the will. A damages award is generally divided up between a surviving spouse and surviving children, while beneficiaries in a will may also include close friends or other relatives. Call Tate law group for a wrongful death lawyer Savannah GA working with the personal representative can best explain the state’s probate law as it relates specifically to the family’s case.