After someone close to you has passed away, you may discover that negligence caused their death. A wrongful death lawsuit can occur at any time, and a grieving family must know how to proceed. Speaking with a lawyer helps begin the grieving process. Discovering the truth behind the incident can bring closure, and compensation helps the family move forward.
What Can Cause a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful deaths are often seen as tragic accidents without causation. If the family looks deeper, they may discover that someone caused their loved one’s death.
Common causes of wrongful deaths are:
- Motor vehicle accidents causing immediate death or when the victim succumbs to their injuries shortly after
- Walking and biking accidents – the victim may be struck by a vehicle or slip and fall
- Slips and falls on residential or commercial properties
- Accidents involving defective products in the home, at work, or in an industrial zone
- Medical malpractice
- Medication errors, poisonings, and overdoses
- Boat or recreation vehicle accidents resulting in drowning, disappearances, or serious injuries
- Work-related accidents
- Animal attacks
While this list is not exhaustive, it is clear that families have the right to compensation when negligence is the cause of these incidents.
How Often Do These Incidents Occur?
According to 2018 figures from the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 167,000 unintentional deaths. These deaths occurred without the commission of a crime or malice, and most wrongful death lawsuits involve these types of incidents.
The CDC revealed that 37,455 deaths were due to falls, 37,991 deaths were connected to motor vehicle accidents, and 62,399 deaths resulted from poisonings.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported over 5000 work-related deaths. While workers’ compensation death benefits may be available, families may wish to file suit against all negligent parties.
Was a Criminal Act Committed?
While most wrongful deaths appear to be an accident initially, all other incidents involve murder, manslaughter, or aiding and abetting a criminal. The justice system will punish the criminal, but the family can still seek compensation.
Families in these situations are eligible to seek compensation if negligence or malice is proven. As these cases are different from accidents, they must be treated differently by a lawyer.
What Steps Should Families Take After a Wrongful Death?
After losing a loved one, the family begins the grieving process. They will seek answers, and we suggest using the following tips to handle the death of a loved one and prepare for a potential lawsuit.
If the death occurred at work, obtain a copy of the report produced by the business. Ask for pictures of the accident scene, speak to coworkers or eyewitnesses, and ask about workers’ compensation death benefits.
If an accident occurred in public, ask for the police report, and seek out eyewitnesses. Gather information about the property, the property owner or management company, and the circumstances surrounding the accident.
A police report should accompany a car accident. If the police choose not to investigate further, contact the state police for more information.
Boating or recreational accidents may include police reports and statements from eyewitnesses. If the victim has gone missing, gather statements or reports from the agency managing the search.
Animal attacks should also generate a police report and provide information about the animal and its owner or handler. Medical malpractice cases should be accompanied by medical records and testimony from anyone who met the medical professionals in question.
What Are Common Mistakes Families Make When Filing a Lawsuit?
When families come forward hoping to file a wrongful death lawsuit, they might make the following common mistakes:
- Families not filing a wrongful death lawsuit because they think their loved one may have been at fault.
- Signing documents and accepting money before speaking to a lawyer will limit the family’s options. Families may be approached by an employer, attorney, or representative who offers a quick settlement. Do not sign any documents or make any agreements without speaking to a lawyer first.
- Believing that hiring a lawyer is too expensive. Keep in mind that legal fees are often obtained in a court or via a settlement.
- Forgetting to document the incident.
- Threatening someone with a lawsuit or communicating with them; all communication should be made through a lawyer.
- Sharing details of the case on social media. Information relating to the death might be used against the family and could be detrimental to the case.
- Forgetting that the family is under investigation by the defendant.
- Representing yourself pro se. You may not be allowed by the jurisdiction. The insurance company or defendant has most likely hired a lawyer, and lawyers will understand the legal process more thoroughly than you.
- Waiting too long to file a claim and allowing the statute of limitations to expire. Speak to a lawyer and move quickly to avoid costly delays.
How to Hire a New Jersey Wrongful Death Lawyer and What They Do for You
Hiring a New Jersey wrongful death lawyer helps the family grieve and seek answers to a tragic loss. When hiring a lawyer, remember the following tips:
- Consult with the lawyer and share all the evidence you have gathered. Your lawyer should take this information under advisement and give you their honest opinion.
- Lawyers cannot promise monetary awards or victories at trial.
- Your lawyer may need time to investigate your claim as the incident may not be well-documented.
- You may hire a new lawyer if you feel their representation is not helping your family.
- Your lawyer should speak on your behalf and be present to sign all documents or discuss the case with a third party.
Frequently Asked Questions
While your lawyer will not promise a certain amount of money, they will calculate medical expenses, burial costs, administrative costs, pain and suffering, and punitive damages into your lawsuit. The final amount of your settlement or judgment is subject to change during the legal process.
Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed by the decedent’s estate’s executor on behalf of their dependents. For example, the executor of a father’s estate is his wife, and she files a suit for compensation that goes to her and her children. Extended family members and friends who are not dependents of the decedent may not file a lawsuit.
If your loved one’s employer offers workers’ compensation insurance, they cannot be sued unless they are guilty of gross negligence or misconduct. Discuss this option with one of our lawyers.
Insurance companies can be sued if they wrongly deny death benefits for the victim’s family.