No one wants to contemplate the death of a loved one, and for good reason. The sense of loss can be unbearable and the death of a spouse, family member, friend or co-worker can be one of the most traumatic and stressful events any of us will face.
It’s a blur of emotion, questions and pain. And while the loss of a loved one is always painful, it’s even worse when the circumstances of that loss seem to have been unnecessary, avoidable and in many ways, wrong. These deaths are often sudden, senseless, confusing and painful for those left behind who often find themselves asking “Why?” and feeling lost.
And in many cases those survivors are left facing psychological trauma and financial hardship, which only add to the feelings of loss.
Too often, survivors don’t think about their legal options in the aftermath of a sudden loss and may not realize the situation is a wrongful death, that is a death caused intentionally, accidentally or through negligence. They may not know what qualifies as a wrongful death deserving of legal action and they may hesitate to consider legal options.
But they would be wise to do just that.
Examples of Wrongful Death
Medical malpractice is a common type of wrongful death. These cases may involve negligence on the part of a healthcare practitioner, medical errors, birth trauma, avoidable death in a long-term care facility or a host of other situations.
Automobile accidents, especially those involving impaired drivers, are another frequent cause.
Company vehicle accidents or accidents involving pedestrians, motorcycles or bicycles frequently lead to wrongful death suits.
Occupational hazards involving hazardous chemicals, substances or working conditions are also frequent causes of wrongful deaths.
Time is of the Essence
With the stress, emotion and confusion following the death of a loved one, many people may hesitate to contact an attorney or they may put off considering legal action while they deal with their grief. But delays can lead to a loss of legal options in wrongful death.
This is because state laws establish statutes of limitations on wrongful death claims. That is, a limit on how long a survivor has to file suit against the party responsible for the death. These statutes of limitations vary from state to state. Some states allow a one year period while most have a two- or three-year statute of limitations on the initiation of a wrongful death suit. Other states have established longer time frames. Generally, once that statute of limitations has been reached no lawsuit may be filed.
It’s also important to note that when the statute of limitations “clock” begins ticking varies from state to state and by the circumstances of the death. In some cases the statute of limitations begins before the death of the wrongful death victim. Also, in most states the statute of limitations on a minor filing a wrongful death claim does not begin to “count down” until that minor’s 18th birthday.
Legal Counsel Can Make a Difference
Wrongful death claims are highly technical, with countless legal variables which vary by state and circumstance. And in the aftermath of the loss of a loved one, survivors often face serious emotional challenges to thinking analytically in such a stressful situation.
The pressure is great. These cases often involve the death of a family member who was financially responsible for children or others. Verdicts or settlements involving compensation for the lost future earnings of the deceased, and compensation for pain, suffering and expenses associated with a wrongful death eventually reaches those dependents.
Allowing the statute of limitations to expire, failing to consider a wrongful death suit or underestimating the financial losses associated with the wrongful death of a loved one can be devastating.
It is extremely important that survivors seek experienced legal counsel in the aftermath of a possible wrongful death. These attorneys can evaluate and analyze the case and present survivors with the full scope of their legal options, then help them make the best decisions possible.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t let time run out. Contact Marler Law Partners for a complementary consultation today.