Wrongful Death Attorney
There is no easy way to face the unexpected loss of a loved one. The grief that comes with this loss can be overwhelming under any circumstances, but it is often especially troubling in cases where the death was possibly preventable.
The loss of a beloved family member can impact surviving relatives in many different ways. The grief that comes with such a loss is never easy, but a death in the family can also result in financial chaos. Dealing with your loved one’s final expenses is an unexpected challenge for most people. Anyone that relied financially on your lost family member could find themselves suddenly in dire financial straits.
Thankfully, every state provides for a legal action known as a wrongful death lawsuit. This civil lawsuit gives the surviving family the ability to seek compensation from the party that negligently caused the death of their loved one. If you believe your family is entitled to compensation, a wrongful death lawyer might be able to help. Call The G Law Group, P.A., at 305-486-7468 or schedule a free case evaluation.
What is Wrongful Death?
Contrary to what some people may think, a wrongful death claim is not a criminal prosecution. A wrongful death claim will not result in prison time or any type of conviction. The State Attorney plays absolutely no part in a wrongful death claim.
Instead, a wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit. These claims result from any death that is caused by the negligence of another person, company, or entity. Wrongful death claims can result from a wide range of negligent acts. Some of the most common examples of wrongful death claims include car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, sporting accidents, violent crimes, or medical malpractice.
Often, these claims will lead to a wrongful death lawsuit. If your wrongful death lawsuit is successful, it will result in financial compensation from the at-fault party. These lawsuits are filed against the at-fault party, but they might not be the only individuals interested in the case. The insurance company for the at-fault party will have a keen interest if their policy covers wrongful death.
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Although the specific definition of the word varies from state to the state, the same type of cases qualify as wrongful death lawsuits nationwide. In general, any death that occurs due to the negligence of another person or entity qualifies.
While courts use the legal standard of negligence for these claims, intentional acts can also result in a wrongful death suit. This is true whether or not the underlying act was a crime.
Whether or not the death of a loved one qualifies as a wrongful death claim is not always clear. Thankfully, a wrongful death attorney can advise you on whether or not you have grounds to seek compensation.
Who can sue for Wrongful Death?
The answer to “who can sue for wrongful death?” depends on the state in which the lawsuit is filed. Every state approaches the right to file these claims differently. Often, state law will allow only the spouse or children of the decedent to file suit. In other states, this right extends to other immediate family members. In some states, extended family have the right to file a lawsuit immediately after the wrongful death occurs, while others must wait for a set amount of time to allow closer relatives to file first if they choose.
Other states prevent the family of a deceased person from pursuing a wrongful death claim directly. Instead, these states give the decedent’s estate the right to bring the claim. In these cases, a personal representative of the estate holds the exclusive right to file a wrongful death suit. This representative is oftentimes named in the decedent’s will or they may be selected by the court.
Some of the parties that could have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:
Spouses. The surviving spouse generally has the right to bring a suit in every state that allows relatives to do so directly.
Children. The children of a deceased person often have as much right to bring a wrongful death claim as the surviving parent. However, some states only allow a child to bring a claim if the surviving parent is unable or unwilling to do so.
Siblings and Parents. In most jurisdictions, siblings and parents of the deceased have fewer rights to bring a wrongful death claim. While some jurisdictions will allow them to do so under limited circumstances, others prevent them from ever seeking a wrongful death lawsuit.
Estate Representative. Certain states do not let the surviving relatives of the deceased file a wrongful death claim under any circumstances. In these states, the right to file a wrongful death claim rests with the estate. Only the official representative of the estate can file the claim, but the proceeds still go to decedent’s heirs.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations on a wrongful death lawsuit varies greatly from state to state. Rest assured, however, that every state has a firm deadline for filing a wrongful death claim.
One thing that is uniform in all jurisdictions is how the statute of limitations is calculated. The statutory period begins running the day of your loved one’s death, and expires after a set amount of time. Every jurisdiction in the United States measures this time in a matter of years, not months.
The amount of time before the statute expires is where each state differs. For example, Tennessee is known for particularly short statutes of limitation on a variety of legal claims. Plaintiffs in a wrongful death case only have one year to file suit according to Tennessee Code 28-3-104, with some limited exceptions.
Most states set their statute of limitations to expire within two years. For example, Florida, Texas, and California all have two year statutes of limitations when it comes to wrongful death cases. Nevertheless, there are some unusual outliers across the country. For example, New Jersey Code Section 2A:31-3 sets an unlimited statute of limitations in cases where a wrongful death is the result of homicide.
For more information on the statute of limitations in your specific state, please check out FAQs.
Are Wrongful Death settlements taxable?
One aspect of a wrongful death lawsuit that people often do not consider, are there any potential tax implications? While the proceeds of some lawsuits are considered income by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you traditionally do not have to pay taxes on a wrongful death settlement.
The IRS only taxes income, meaning that if the IRS does not recognize certain funds as income, then these funds are not taxable. According to IRS Rule 1.104-1, the proceeds of a wrongful death settlement are not taxable. However, as with personal injury claims, there are exceptions to Rule 1.104-1.
Some proceeds from a wrongful death claim are taxable. For example, emotional distress damages are taxable if they result from trauma that is not associated with bodily injuries. Any interest you obtain on a wrongful death judgment is also taxable by the IRS.
What damages are awarded in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The damages in a wrongful death case typically fall into two categories. First, you are entitled to compensation for claims the decedent accrued before their death. Second, a wrongful death plaintiff can also seek compensation for their losses caused by the death of their loved one.
The first type of compensation is essentially what would have been available to the decedent had they survived. This typically involves compensation for pain and suffering as well as any medical expenses that were incurred by the decedent. This would also include any wages lost or other expenses incurred as a result of this tragic incident.
The second type of compensation relates to the losses close family members might experience due to an untimely death. For those that relied financially on the decedent, these claims oftentimes provide the financial support they desperately need. This type of claim could also pursue compensation for a surviving family member’s loss of emotional support or loss of care. Surviving family can also obtain compensation for their own mental aguish, pain, and/or suffering caused by the tragic loss of a loved one.
How much is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit worth?
Because there is no national clearinghouse for wrongful death settlement statistics, it is impossible to gauge the average settlement for a wrongful death lawsuit. That said, the use of subjective evidence for a claim’s value can sometimes be helpful in determining the amount of compensation you should expect. Ultimately, a skilled wrongful death attorney is in the best position to carefully evaluate your claim and advise you on what kind of compensation you might expect.
Because no two claims are alike, it can be difficult to obtain an accurate estimate for the value of your case. Many factors go into determining the value of a wrongful death case. Understanding some of these factors can be helpful during the evaluation process. Some of these factors are:
The future earning potential of the victim
The age of the victim
The health of the victim
The medical bills incurred due to the illness or injury
Circumstances surrounding the illness or injury
The insurance policy limits
Given that these claims are intended to provide compensation for the remaining lifetime of the victim’s earnings, wrongful death cases can be worth a substantial amount. These settlements can range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to several million, depending on the factors listed above. Speak with a qualified wrongful death attorney and find out how much your case may be worth.
You May Be Entitled to Compensation Following the Wrongful Death of Your Loved One
Following the tragic loss of a loved one, you are dealing with so many different feelings and emotions. The grieving process is difficult enough on its own, but unexpected financial burdens can only further complicate things. Our wrongful death attorneys can take some of the pressure off of your shoulders, allowing you to focus on dealing with your grief.
From the moment you begin working with a wrongful death attorney, your chances of recovering compensation increase dramatically. No amount of money can undo the pain suffered by your family, but a successful wrongful death claim can help ease the financial strain that comes with this kind of loss. Click the link below to schedule a free consultation with one of our top-rated wrongful death attorneys.