When a loved one has died as a result of an accident, it’s important that you know your rights and responsibilities, to help bring justice for your suffering and compensation to your loss. The team of personal injury professionals at Murphy & Pressentin can help you recover monetary compensation for the losses to you and your family. We also bring you the following information on wrongful death and survival claims.
WRONGFUL DEATH AND SURVIVAL ACTIONS
The carnage from accidents on our roads and highways is a major source of death and injury in the United States. In 2013, 32,719 people lost their lives and 2,310,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
Wrongful Death is defined as a fatality caused by “the wrongful act or neglect of another.”
Negligent Driving is the cause of most wrongful death claims. Most of these cases are brought against people who cause accidental deaths while driving carelessly. Examples of careless driving include running a red light, driving at unsafe speeds, or using a cell phone instead of watching the road. A negligent driver’s automobile liability insurance will cover claims made up to the policy limits. Some driver’s have additional insurance (such as umbrella coverage provided by a homeowner’s policy) that can also be used to pay compensation for a loss caused by negligent driving. An experienced injury attorney will be able to conduct an investigation to locate any additional policies or sources of compensation.
Who possesses the wrongful death claim? State law allows certain people (usually heirs – spouse, children, parents, or siblings) to bring a claim for compensation for their losses that resulted from their loved one’s wrongful death. The claim may be made directly to the negligent driver’s insurer or filed in court action.
How long do I have to bring a wrongful death claim? State law limits the time within which all injury claims must either be resolved by settlement or filed in a civil court action. State laws vary, but most have limitations of two years from the day of the accident (California, Illinois, Pennsylvania) while others have three years (Wisconsin). Some states have only one year (Tennessee). It’s important that you understand exactly how long you have to bring your claim, for if you miss the limitations period by even one day, your right to compensation will be lost forever.
What is a survivorship claim? While the wrongful death claim compensates family members for their losses due to a loved one’s demise, the survivorship claim is a claim made by the deceased’s estate for compensation for the losses the deceased incurred prior to passing. This would include any medical expenses or lost wages during hospitalization. Some states (not California) permit the estate to seek damages for the pain and suffering the deceased experienced prior to death.
Damages recovered through a survivorship claim become the property of the deceased’s estate and are distributed to the deceased’s heirs.
What compensation can be awarded for wrongful death? In addition to the losses to the estate that can be pursued through a survivorship claim, family members may seek compensation for their own losses. Some of those losses are financial while other losses are emotional, such as the loss of the deceased’s love and companionship.
Financial losses would include the loss of the deceased’s income to those who were dependent upon it for their economic support. Economic damages may also involve the value of gifts or future inheritance that would have been received had the deceased enjoyed their normal life expectancy. Household services the deceased provided are subject to valuation and compensation. For instance, household chores of cooking, cleaning or laundry may be calculated over a person’s life expectancy for dollar values. In addition, the advice, love and direction which a parent would be expected to provide to a child may be assigned a dollar value for reimbursement.
Noneconomic damages for wrongful death compensate people for three categories of losses:
- The loss of the departed’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.
- In situations of a spouse, the loss of the enjoyment of sexual relations with the deceased.
- Primarily in the case of a child, the loss of the training and guidance that the deceased would have provided.
Some states (not California) permit payment of damages for grief, sorrow or mental anguish that the person bringing the claim has experienced as a result of their loss.
It is difficult to place a dollar value on the loss of love and companionship. An experienced injury attorney will be able to develop information necessary to analyze and assign reasonable values to the various losses experienced by each family member entitled to advance a claim.
Amputations. If an injury results in the loss of a limb then the consequences are both life changing and traumatic. In many cases it leads to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). No one can underestimate the devastation experienced by someone who has lost an arm or leg which not only affects their quality of life but of those close to them.
COMPENSATION CANNOT BRING BACK MY LOVED ONE. WHY SHOULD I SEEK IT?
No amount of compensation can restore a lost life. No award of damages will replace the love you received from a family member who died. However monetary compensation – an award of dollars – is the method by which our civil justice system dispenses justice. If you are entitled to compensation, there are several reasons you should seek it.
REPLACE FINANCIAL SUPPORT. You will find it difficult to go on without the support of your lost spouse or relative. However your burden should not be made heavier by losing the financial support and services your loved one provided. If you depended on that person’s income to help pay for housing, food, tuition, transportation, clothing, or other expenses, you should not be deprived of those necessities due to another person’s wrongful or careless conduct. Your loved one wanted you to have those things. Bringing a claim to replace the lost income assures that you will have what your loved one wanted you to have.
DETERRING FUTURE MISCONDUCT. Every claim for injuries sends a message. People who know they will be held accountable for their carelessness are less likely to be careless. Insurance companies that pay money for injuries and death are more likely to lobby for increased safety standards and for stricter enforcement of laws designed to prevent fatal accidents.
PERSONAL SATISFACTION. You are not able to take legal action to send a person to jail for their conduct, which is for the criminal justice system over which you have no control. However by pursuing wrongful death damages you can assure that the person is held financially responsible for his or her conduct. The sense of justice that you can receive from a settlement or verdict may give you a sense of closure that you would not otherwise experience.