The Meaning of “Wrongful Death”

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

At my firm we handle a variety of Wrongful Death lawsuits.  Because we work on so many medical malpractice cases, most of the Wrongful Death suits we handle are also medical malpractice cases. 

Just yesterday, I had a client call us about a medical malpractice case, but she wanted to know if we also handle Wrongful Death cases.  Since many people have asked this question over the years, I thought now would be a good time to talk about what a Wrongful Death case is.

What is “Wrongful Death”?

A Wrongful Death suit is any kind of case involving a claim that one person died because of the negligence of another person, or of a business.   Any accident that results in someone dying can be a Wrongful Death case.  For example, my firm has handled Wrongful Death cases involving car accidents, dangerous products, workplace injuries—and of course, medical malpractice.  So when lawyers speak of Wrongful Death lawsuits, they are talking about the severity of the injury caused in their case, not the type of accident that caused it.  The type of case doesn’t change when a death has occurred—but the damages are obviously much greater.

The Wrongful Death Statutes

In a Wrongful Death case, every state has a statute that determines who can sue for damages arising out of the death of another person, and how much they can receive if they win.  These statutes differ from state to state.  

For example, when we handle Wrongful Death cases in Arkansas, we must open an estate in the name of the deceased person, and only the appointed representative of the estate can file suit.  That isn’t true in many other states. 

There are also differences about who can recover damages.  For example, in Texas only the parents, children and spouse of the deceased person can recover damages for their loss.  In Arkansas, by contrast, brothers and sisters of the deceased person are also allowed to recover, and people who aren’t related to the deceased person but have a relationship to the deceased person similar to that of a child to a parent may also be entitled to recover.

No Substitutes for Experience in Wrongful Death Cases

Because of these complications and differences in the law, it is critically important that any lawyer about to handle a Wrongful Death suit know what he is doing.  It would be too easy for an inexperienced lawyer to make a mistake that would prevent his clients from getting anything.

That is why we tell anyone who asks us about a Wrongful Death suit to make certain that they hire a lawyer with experience not only in the kind of lawsuit they have—car accident, workplace accident, medical malpractice or something else—but also in the area of law known as Wrongful Death. 

These cases are no place for rookie lawyers, or your nephew who just graduated from law school, or that guy you know from Bible study.  You need a pro for your Wrongful Death case. 

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