Few tragedies are felt more deeply than a loved one’s death, often made worse if someone else’s negligence was the cause. In circumstances where negligence or misconduct is likely, the deceased estate and their survivors can take legal action and file a wrongful death suit against the negligent party.
There are both emotional and financial reasons to file a wrongful death claim. Many families wish to hold the negligent party accountable for his or her reckless behavior. Making a finding of responsibility for a loved one’s death can help bring closure for the family. Survivors can also obtain compensation for financial losses caused by the death, such as medical and funereal expenses, well as the loss of financial support the decedent likely would have earned.
There is a window of opportunity
Surviving loved ones often want to focus on their grieving process after a death. However, the state has time limits for filing a lawsuit. The lawsuit must be filed within two years of the victim’s death. If injuries suffered during the incident lingered for years before eventually leading to death, the estate has five years after the incident to sue the negligent party. Generally, it is thought best not to wait the full length of time. Reasons for this include:
- Important eyewitnesses can disappear.
- Witnesses can forget important details.
- It can take time to find the right attorney who understands the survivor’s goals.
- It takes time for attorneys to build a strong case.
Determining who is negligent
As mentioned above, it often takes time to determine who is responsible, and it may not be the other involved in the incident. For example, a motor vehicle accident may involve one driver going through a stop sign, but overgrown trees or bushes may have obscured the sign that a municipality is responsible for maintaining. If the injury happened at work, the company might not have adequately trained staff on safety precautions. It could also involve a third party, such as a company that manufactured faulty equipment.
Providing closure after a tragedy
Wrongful death lawsuits cannot change the fact that a loved one’s life was unnecessarily cut short. Still, it can provide emotional and financial support that enables the family to move forward after a tragic loss. Those considering file a suit can start the process by discussing the circumstances of the injury and death with an experienced personal injury attorney who handles wrongful death cases.