According to the CDC, there are about 173,000 unintentional injury deaths each year. Of course, not all of these unintentional deaths will warrant a wrongful death claim, however, many of them—particularly those caused by medical malpractice or car accidents—will. Just as a personal injury claim results from the negligence or carelessness of another person or entity, when the victim of a personal injury dies, it becomes a wrongful death claim. In the state of Louisiana, immediate family members may bring a wrongful death claim. Proving wrongful death can virtually always benefit from the assistance of a knowledgeable legal professional. Following the death of a loved one, it is easy to feel overwhelmed at the loss. New Orleans Legal can help you through this difficult time, helping you file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.
What are the Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
While virtually any death caused by negligence, carelessness, or recklessness can be deemed a wrongful death, the most common types of wrongful death claims involve:
- Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Work accidents
- Death caused by a defective product
- Pedestrian accidents
- Airplane, train, and boating accidents
- Swimming accidents
- Asbestos exposure deaths
- Nursing home abuse and neglect deaths
Proving Wrongful Death
There are four key elements associated with proving a wrongful death claim. These include:
- It must be shown that negligence, carelessness, or recklessness was the cause of the accident and subsequent death.
- Next, it must be shown that the defendant in the case owed a duty to the deceased and that the duty was breached. As an example, motorists have a duty to follow all laws and rules of the road. Doctors have a duty to offer the same care as another reasonable doctor with similar training would have done.
- After showing a breach of duty existed, causation must be shown—the negligence of the defendant was the direct cause of the victim’s death.
- Finally, there must be quantifiable damages such as medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of potential earnings, etc.
What are the Potential Wrongful Death Damages?
If all the above criteria are met, a loved one could be eligible for wrongful death damages. These damages can include the following:
- Hospital and other medical expenses after the accident and prior to the death;
- Funeral and burial expenses;
- Current lost wages;
- Loss of future income;
- Loss of protection;
- Loss of guidance (for the decedent’s children);
- Loss of consortium (for the decedent’s spouse);
- Loss of inheritance, and
- Pain and suffering of the victim prior to his or her death.
What is the Burden of Proof in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Since a wrongful death claim is a civil action rather than a criminal case, the burden of proof is lower. In a criminal case, a judge or jury must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt A civil lawsuit must only be proven via a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant acted recklessly, negligently, or carelessly. Some judges will instruct a jury to determine whether it is “more likely than not” the Defendant caused the victim’s death. Just because your attorney presents more witnesses doesn’t necessarily mean your burden of proof has been met. Rather the credibility and quality of the evidence will be carefully measured. No damages will be paid when the burden of proof is not met.
There are many steps necessary to ensure the preponderance of evidence showing the defendant is liable for the death. A wrongful death attorney will develop a specific strategy, thoroughly investigate the claim, obtain evidence from experts, meet witnesses, and research applicable tort law. As you might imagine, a wrongful death claim must be built carefully, from start to finish. Having an experienced wrongful death attorney by your side can go a long way toward proving wrongful death and ensuring you receive a settlement that can significantly improve your financial future.
Proving Wrongful Death Involves the Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations govern how long the family members of the deceased have to file a wrongful death claim. The statutes of limitations vary from state to state; in the state of Louisiana, the window of time for filing a wrongful death claim is one year from the date of death. If this time limit is not met, it is unlikely the case will be heard, and the opportunity for filing a wrongful death claim will be lost.
How Can an Attorney from New Orleans Legal Assist You with a Claim?
At New Orleans Legal, LLC, we understand that no amount of money will bring your loved one back. That being said, particularly if the deceased was the primary breadwinner, a wrongful death claim can ensure his or her family is financially taken care of. We are dedicated to obtaining a fair settlement for you and your loved ones and will work hard to ensure that happens. Contact New Orleans Legal, LLC today for help in proving wrongful death.