What constitutes a “wrongful” death?
A death is deemed wrongful if it’s a result of someone else's malice, negligence, or recklessness. The idea behind a wrongful death lawsuit is that the wrongful death, in addition to injuring the person who died, also injured people who depended upon the deceased for financial or emotional support. While it can be a careless or reckless act, a wrongful death can also be an intentional act such as deliberate murder
What is the difference between murder and wrongful death?
The O.J. Simpson case is a good example. The state of California found Simpson “not guilty” of first degree murder because the charges could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Criminal cases are brought on behalf of the citizens of certain state or federal district, not by the victims or the victims’ families. Following the verdict, Nicole Brown Simpson’s family sued O.J. Simpson in the state court for wrongfully causing their deaths. Civil lawsuits for wrongful death are tried for monetary damages, not for a prison sentence. These cases are brought in the name of individuals, not in the name of the state.
What if a person dies before bringing a personal injury lawsuit?
This depends on whether the person died as a result of the injuries or from causes that are unrelated. If a victim injured in an accident does die from those injuries, that person’s survivors can recover damages. All states have a law permitting an action when someone causes the wrongful death of someone else. If an individual with a personal injury claim dies from unrelated causes, the claim survives in most cases and may be brought by a representative of the deceased person's estate.
How is the amount of damages determined?
The amount of damages is different for everyone. Survivors can generally sue to recover the costs of their medical bills for the injured person. Burial expenses can also be recovered. For the survivors who have been injured as a result of the victim’s death, various damages can be awarded. The damages that can be assessed may include an estimate of the amount of earnings the person who died would have earned if they had lived, and pain and suffering experienced by the survivors due to the absence of the deceased person. Keep in mind that estimates of future earnings usually require expert testimony that involves the deceased person's future earning capacity.
What if the wrongful death happened at work, is there someone who can be sued?
If someone dies on the job, the only recourse survivors have against the decedent’s employer is under Workers’ Compensation laws. But, if the death was caused by the wrongdoing of someone other than the employer—like a co-worker or a defective product—surviving family members may bring a claim against wrongdoers, employer excluded.
The loss of a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences any family can have. You don't have to go through it alone: Contact The Shelnutt Law Firm or call 256-547-4988 to arrange a free review of your wrongful death case. Our lawyers serve clients throughout Anniston, Gadsden, Birmingham, and other areas of Alabama.