Wrongful Death Claims FAQ
Q: What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
A: It depends on whether a person dies as a result of the injuries or from unrelated causes. If a person injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault subsequently dies because of those injuries, that person’s heirs may recover money through a lawsuit. Every state has a law permitting a lawsuit when someone causes the wrongful death of another. If a person with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most cases and may be brought by the executor or personal representative of the deceased person’s estate.
Q: What if an unborn fetus dies?
A: Many states require that a child must be born alive for its death to constitute the first element of a wrongful death action, so the death of a fetus might not be actionable. An attorney can tell you what the law is in your state.
Q: When someone dies, what is the difference between the civil and criminal cases that can be brought regarding the death?
A: A criminal case arises when the government seeks to punish someone for an act that has been classified as a crime. A civil case, on the other hand, usually has to do with a dispute over the rights and duties that individuals and organizations legally owe each other. The burden of proof is higher in a criminal case, and the penalty imposed is a criminal sanction, whereas, in a civil case, the defendant will typically have a monetary judgment entered against him/her.
Q: Are punitive damages recoverable in wrongful death actions?
A: In most states, a plaintiff may not recover punitive damages in a wrongful death action. There are some states, however, that do have specific statues that permit recovery of punitive damages.
Q: Are all state laws the same regarding wrongful deaths?
A: No, there are many differences between each state’s wrongful death laws. Determining the state in which you should bring a wrongful death action is a very important decision, because some states do not allow certain types of damage awards and/or may have different statutes of limitation on the timeframe within which you must file suit.
Q: Can I bring a wrongful death action if the deceased never held a job?
A: Yes, even if the decedent never held a job, he/she may have contributed in some other way to the family. A good example of such a decedent is a housewife, who contributes services, guidance and nurturing for her family. These contributions are quantifiable as “pecuniary losses” in a wrongful death action.
Q: Can someone sue for the pain and suffering of a decedent?
A: Yes, in addition to the wrongful death, a decedent’s family may recover damages for the pain and suffering that the decedent endured prior to death.
Q: Can I bring a wrongful death action based on the death of a child or an elderly person?
A: Yes, you can recover damages in a wrongful death cause of action for the death of either a child or an elderly person. For a variety of reasons, however, the damage awards for both classes of decedent are usually modest.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.
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