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Wrongful Death FAQ

A wrongful death occurs when the negligence or wrongful act of another is responsible for the death. A wrongful death lawsuit may be filed on behalf of the family members who have lost the companionship, guidance and support of the deceased due to such negligence. In addition to a negligent act, wrongful deaths may be the result of a reckless, careless or intentional act. You may have many questions regarding wrongful death lawsuits if you have lost a loved one. Some of the most-asked questions regarding wrongful death include the following:

Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit?

The precise answer to that question depends on your state of residence, however generally speaking the spouse at the time of the death can legally bring a wrongful death lawsuit and the children of the decedent can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. If the deceased had no children, his or her parent’s may be allowed to file a wrongful death lawsuit. If the decedent had not surviving children or parents, siblings may be able to bring action. If the decedent is a young child, the parents can file a wrongful death lawsuit.

How are damages determined in a wrongful death lawsuit?

A number of things will be taken into consideration when determining the amount of damages in a wrongful death lawsuit. Some of these factors include life expectancy at the time of death, age, occupation, past earnings, estimated future earnings, habits and health prior to the accident.

If there are multiple heirs, how will the settlement be divided?

If the heirs are unable to decide among themselves how to divide the wrongful death settlement, the Court will divide the money as it sees fit.

Is there a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit?

The answer to this question depends on several factors. The first factor is the state you live in, as each state sets its own statutes of limitations. If the death of your loved one was the result of an intentional murder, there may be no time limits at all. If the death resulted from a negligent accident, state statutes will apply. Wrongful deaths which are the result of medical malpractice will be bound by the laws in your state pertaining to medical malpractice. In general, however, you have 2 years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Can survivors receive damages for emotional distress?

Emotional distress is not specifically accounted for in a wrongful death settlement, however survivors may be able to recover damages for such things as protection, aid, comfort, advice, guidance and counsel if the decedent would have provided them if he or she had lived.