If you have lost a loved one to an untimely death, no amount of money can bring them back. For that reason, many people hold off on pursuing a wrongful death claim until it is too late.
It is important to understand the full extent of your losses and what your loved one would want for your family. Johnnie Bond Law can help during this challenging time.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
When someone’s negligence, recklessness, or deliberate wrongdoing causes injuries that lead to death, the laws of DC and the surrounding states consider that a wrongful death. Certain family members or dependents may be eligible to recover compensation from the person responsible (or their insurance company) by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Essentially, the person filing the claim is filing on behalf of the deceased person, because they are no longer able to seek legal remedies. Compensation obtained through a wrongful death lawsuit can help make up for the support the family has lost due to the untimely death.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil case separate from any criminal legal action such as a homicide charge. In a criminal case, the focus is on punishing the wrongdoer. In a civil case, the focus is on helping the victim’s family. The burden of proof is lower in a civil case. Instead of proving your assertion “beyond a reasonable doubt,” in a wrongful death claim, you only need to show that it is more likely than not that the death would not have occurred had it not been for the defendant’s actions.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death in the DC Metro Area
A wrongful death claim can be based on someone’s intentional act, such as a criminal assault, but more often it is based on a reckless or negligent action. When someone is negligent, they fail to fulfill a duty they owe to others and that failure causes harm. For instance, drivers owe a duty to others to pay attention and follow the rules of the road. If they neglect that duty to focus on a message on their phone and an accident results, then that driver can be held liable for the consequences, including death.
Wrongful death lawsuits can be brought when death results from situations such as:
- Medical malpractice
- Car accidents
- Slip and fall incidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Birth injuries
- Truck accidents
Essentially, any situation that would give rise to a personal injury lawsuit could also provide grounds for a wrongful death claim if the victim died from their injuries.
Damages Available Through a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The loss of a loved one impacts a family in so many ways that it can be difficult to comprehend. An experienced wrongful death lawyer understands the potential losses your family may experience, and will build on legal precedent to seek recovery for each of these elements.
You might be entitled to compensation for the loss of financial support provided by the deceased person, including their earnings and benefits. You might also receive compensation for physical contributions to the household, such as yard work and child care, and for emotional support, training, and guidance the deceased person would have provided.
Frequently Asked Questions About Wrongful Death
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is a lawsuit filed by a family member or dependent seeking compensation from the person or company that acted in a way that caused an untimely death. In many ways, a wrongful death claim is like a personal injury lawsuit the deceased person would have filed if they had survived their injuries instead of succumbing to them.
Who is eligible to file a wrongful death suit?
Each jurisdiction has slightly different rules that determine which people have the legal right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In DC and Virginia, for example, the personal representative of the deceased person must file the claim. However, compensation received will not go to the representative but to the surviving spouse or other family members. In Maryland, the law allows a deceased person’s spouse, children, or parents to file a wrongful death lawsuit, but if there is no one in those categories, any relative who was dependent on the support of the deceased person can file a claim.
What kinds of wrongful death cases are there?
A wrongful death claim can be based on a wide variety of different situations. Wrongful death cases may stem from incidents such as:
- Auto accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Truck accidents
- Slip and fall or trip and fall incidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Pedestrians hit by vehicles
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Reckless or deliberate acts such as assault
Essentially, any time a death could have been prevented if someone had only behaved responsibly, there is the potential for a wrongful death claim.
How much time do I have to file a wrongful death lawsuit?
The wrongful death statutes of each jurisdiction set time limits for filing a claim, and sometimes these limits vary depending on the cause of death. Laws in DC and Virginia require a wrongful death lawsuit to be filed within two years of the individual’s death. Maryland law sets a general limit of three years, so a lawsuit must usually be filed no later than three years after the death. However, if the death was caused by exposure to toxic substances in the workplace, the deadline may be extended to ten years depending on how long it took to identify the exposure as the cause of death.
Can a wrongful death suit be filed if there is already a criminal case in process?
Absolutely. A criminal case moves through a different court under a different set of rules. However, evidence and finding from the criminal case can be used to support the wrongful death claim for damages. Even if there is not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person should be guilty under criminal standards, there may be sufficient evidence to find that person liable for wrongful death under civil standards, and they can still be required to pay compensation to the family members they have harmed.
What types of damages may be recovered for wrongful death?
The wrongful death statutes of the jurisdiction specify the types of damages available. In DC, for example, available damages include amounts to cover the medical expenses and burial, loss of financial support the deceased person would have provided until their retirement age, and the value of personal services such as care, companionship, and advice. In Maryland, family members may recover for the monetary losses as well as amounts to make up for their emotional pain, mental anguish, loss of companionship, and other personal factors.
How are damages determined?
A wide variety of factors go into determining damages in a wrongful death case. Courts often consider the circumstances surrounding the death and pain the deceased person suffered. They also consider the earnings of the deceased person and the amount of support they provided to loved ones who are filing the claim. An experienced wrongful death attorney can calculate the value of losses appropriate to the case to help you determine whether a settlement offer you received provides a fair amount.
Is it likely that my wrongful death case will be tried in court?
Most wrongful death claims, like other personal injury cases, resolve before going to trial. A conscientious wrongful death lawyer will gather and preserve evidence and build a case that is prepared to succeed in court regardless of that fact. That type of thorough preparation demonstrates to insurance companies that they are likely to lose in court, so the insurers move forward to provide a fair settlement offer to save themselves the expenses of litigation.
Find Out How a Dedicated Wrongful Death Lawyer Could Help Your Family in the DC Area
Although it can be difficult to think of legal matters when you are immersed in loss, it is important to take a moment to prepare to meet your family’s future needs. The sooner you begin working with a wrongful death lawyer, the sooner your legal advocate can start collecting evidence to build a strong case for recovery.
At Johnnie Bond Law, we want to help your family recover and move forward after your devastating loss. Call us today to learn more about the ways we can assist.
Get a Free Case Evaluation.
We're Available to Help You 24/7.
You can also complete the form below, and we will reach out to you.