General Information about Wrongful Death
Wrongful death occurs when companies or individuals are negligent or either of these are found to have misconduct in their duties to others. These include car accidents, medical malpractice, occupational accidents and others. Statutes are in place for every state to establish procedures for bringing actions against the responsible party or parties; in this case, it is called a Wrongful Death Statute. These statutes list the proper litigants allowed to file suit in a wrongful death, including survivors such as spouses, children, parents and siblings among others. Wrongful death attorneys experienced in these lawsuits are able to walk clients through the essential details of your case to bring optimum results.
Four main causes of wrongful death are medical malpractice (resulting in death), vehicle or public transportation accidents (such as airplane or trains), work related injuries (including exposure to hazardous substances), and possibly deaths during supervised activities. The death must be caused by negligence, causing financial, physical and/or emotional loss for the victim's survivors. In order to file a wrongful death case, you must be entitled to sue according to your state's laws.
If you lost a loved one due to one of the causes described above, it is important to contact an experienced Wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Wrongful death lawyers experienced in wrongful deaths know how to assist you in gathering all necessary information and bring it to litigation.
What to do if there is a possibility of a wrongful death
No matter what the actual cause of a wrongful death is, there are limitations periods set within which wrongful death lawsuits must be filed. Therefore, it is very important to consult an attorney when you believe you might have a wrongful death claim to bring. An experienced attorney can answer all of your questions about wrongful death lawsuits and help you achieve the best possible outcome.
When questions arise about a death
When questions arise about a wrongful death, begin taking notes. In the case of malpractice, write down times, dates, names of doctors, nurses, tests, medications and even visitors. In the case of accidents (motor vehicle, occupational or otherwise), again, begin taking notes. An experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to help you determine from your notes, and by asking additional questions, the possible validity of your claim and the likelihood of a possible positive outcome in litigation.
The Discovery Rule and Time Limitations are set in what is called the "statute of limitations". These limitation periods may begin from the date of death in some areas, yet in others, it will depend on when the claimant discovers, or should have discovered, the connection to the death and its probable cause as a wrongful death. Many states appoint a personal representative to the case that begins the time limitation clock. Varying causes, such as toxic materials or disease, may have different time requirements in some states.
To determine how much time may be left in a possible wrongful death case, it is essential to contact an attorney experienced in wrongful deaths. It can not be more strongly emphasized that it is imperative to contact a wrongful death attorney as soon as possible if wrongful death is even suspected. The claimant's rights to file suit in a wrongful death case are permanently waived if the time limitation has passed in most cases, and you will NOT be able to recover damages. A skilled wrongful death lawyer that is experienced is able to determine the time limitation and all information needed to succeed in a wrongful death case.
Laws are in place for some states to allow survivors to still file suit even if the normal time limitation period (that may start at death) has expired, removing the possibility of seeking damages in a wrongful death action before it may reasonably be discovered. These states see the right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit as fundamental. There is also a discovery rule that may be applied in these cases to establish whether the victim did know, or should have known, the cause of the illness or injury before death. In these cases, the time limitation would start before the actual death.
When wrongful deaths occur due to personal injury, or derivative actions, they may be held to the statute of limitations because no personal injury claim was asserted within an appropriate period of time. Product liability causes are also subject to special limitation periods that begin upon death, despite whether or not the claimant knew of the cause of death. There are also some states that have statutes of repose that exclude liability claims when a product has reached a certain age.
The Discovery Rule and Time Limitations
States differ in the case of deaths caused by harmful substances in regard to time limitation periods. The main limitation period is from the date of the death that ends no matter when the cause of death was discovered. The other is from when the cause should have been known or reasonably discovered. For example, if the cause was not discovered until 10 years after death, no case could be filed because the overall time limitation was 6 years, even if it was not possible to know about the cause until that time.
No matter what the cause of a wrongful death, because of the time limitations, it is important to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. Even if there is only a slight possibility of a wrongful death, it is better to find out if there is a viable case and what the time limitations are.