St. Paul Serious Injuries And Wrongful Death Lawyers
If a person dies, or has been killed, because of another person’s negligence or overall misconduct, which includes murder, then the surviving members of the victim’s family have the right to sue for wrongful death. A lot of wrongful death lawsuits are follow-ups to criminal trials, but they utilize a much lower standard of proof.
One very famous example of a wrongful death case was when O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murder in 1994 when the prosecution could not find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He was then found responsible for the wrongful deaths of the two victims in his original trial because the surviving members of their families proved through a preponderance of evidence that he was responsible for their deaths.
A wrongful death suit is a civil action that is always separate from any criminal charges, which is why the standard of proof is lower than in murder and manslaughter criminal cases. There are many different circumstances that can bring about a wrongful death lawsuit, and some of these examples include car accidents, manufacturing defects, medical malpractice, toxic torts and criminal activity.
When serious, catastrophic or fatal injuries are caused by negligence or the wrongful misconduct of others, entire families are frequently left reeling for answers about what has caused them such strife. Few things in life can compare with the devastation families feel after a fatal accident takes the life of a loved one. A surviving accident victim has undergone a life-altering event — often resulting in a loss of quality of life. At Sand Law, LLC, our attorneys and legal team are committed to investigating what happened to you and preparing a solid case aimed at achieving optimal results.
This page is an informational tool that will help you better understand what a wrongful death claim is and if it is or is not a viable option for your family if you are in the unfortunate situation of losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. Wrongful death is always a very serious part of civil law, and that’s why it’s important for you understand as much as you can about these cases so you’ll be more prepared for any potential future litigation in these gloomy cases.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Elements
In order to bring about a wrongful death case the following elements must be present:
- A human being died;
- Negligence caused the death, or the intent to cause harm caused the death;
- The surviving family members now suffer monetary injury because of the death, and;
- There is a personal representative for the decedent’s estate.
A few common examples of the circumstances that wrongful death claims arise from include the following:
- Medical malpractice
- Criminal behavior
- Automobile or plane accident
- Occupational exposure to hazardous substances or conditions
- Death during a supervised activity
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death?
The people who can legally sue for wrongful death are called the real parties in interest, and they are survivors of the decedent’s family who now suffer certain damages due to the death of the decedent, and these damages can vary. Immediate family, like children and spouses, as well as parents of unmarried children, are generally always eligible to be real parties of interest.
Life partners and financial dependents also have the right of recovery for damages in wrongful death situations as well. In some states, even distant family members, like siblings and grandparents can bring about these lawsuits A common example is a grandparent who raises a child.
It can get even more complicated and political when the parents of a deceased fetus file a wrongful death lawsuit, which is allowed in some states, but not allowed in several others. Depending on where you live, you could recover emotional and financial losses for losing a fetus due to medical negligence.
Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Financial injury tends to be the main way to measure damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Another main measure of damages in these cases, is pecuniary injuries, which can include loss of services, support, prospect for inheritance, and funeral and medical expenses. Most laws dictate that all damages in wrongful death cases that are awarded must be fair and just compensation dependent upon the pecuniary injuries, which came about from the decedent’s death.
In general there are three types of damages available to a decedent’s real parties of interest, and these include economic, non-economic and punitive damages.
Economic damages typically includes all potential financial contributions the decedent would have been able to give to his/her survivors if they didn’t die, and these damages can include the following:
- Funeral and medical costs connected to the decedent’s death
- Loss of expected earnings
- Loss of benefits, like medical coverage
- Loss of inheritance
- Goods and services the victim would have provided
Non-economic damages are those that are less tangible, but many times can have even more intrinsic value than anything economic. Some examples of these damages include:
- Survivors’ pain and suffering or mental anguish
- Loss of guidance, advice, care, protection, training and nurturing from decedent
- Loss of companionship and love
- Loss of consortium for the spouse
Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant exhibited especially bad or malicious behavior in the wrongful death action, and it is technically a punishment by the court. We’ll talk more about these damages in the subsections below.
Determining Pecuniary Loss
The character, age and condition of the decedent, as well as his/her earning capacity, health and intelligence, life expectancy and the specific circumstances of the distributees all play big factors in determining pecuniary loss in a wrongful death lawsuit. This may seem rather straightforward, but it’s actually a complicated process that is much more difficult to understand than most may think.
One of the main considerations in awarding damages is the specific circumstances at the time of the decedent’s death. An example would be an adult who earns more than enough money to take care of his young children, dying in any type of way that could constitute wrongful death. The major aspects of recovery in this case would be the loss of income and parental guidance. The jury would then consider the decedent’s current earnings at the time he/she died, or last known earnings if they were unemployed when they died, and they would also then calculate the decedent’s future earnings.
Adjustments in the Jury’s Award
The jury will be those responsible for determining the size of damages that will be awarded after hearing all of the evidence in a wrongful death action. The court could adjust the size of the award up or down for a variety of purposes after the jury has made their decision.
There are several circumstances that can play into adjusting a jury’s award in these cases, and it does happen quite often. One example of this would be if the decedent was prone to squandering his/her income, which could reduce the family’s eventual recovery after the jury’s award. A positive adjustment could also be made if a decedent had poor earnings, but was young and had great potential, and supported several children.
Determining Pecuniary Loss Through Use of Expert Testimony
Plaintiffs can utilize economists as an expert testimony in order to establish the value of a decedent to his/her family, and this rule has recently changed for when a housewife passes away as well. For housewives who were not employed, the financial impact is simply different than a loss of income, and involves increased expenditures and loss of quality of life for the family. Some jurors may not recognize this kind of monetary value in housewives, which is why using an expert testimony can help in these kinds of evaluations.
This essentially involves some kind of malicious wrongdoing, and punitive damages are the punishment for the wrongdoer, which sometimes is a legal action to deter others from doing the same thing in the future.
In most states, punitive damages can not be recovered in wrongful death actions, but some states do have statutes that allow for punitive damages in these cases.
In Minnesota, punitive damages are technically recoverable in wrongful death cases if the judge or jury finds that the conduct of the defendant warrants these damages.
Statute of Limitations
Every state sets a specific time limit, or statue of limitations, in terms of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. For many states, this deadline is two years after the date of the misconduct that ended up causing the death of the decedent/victim.
In some states, the statue of limitations is only one year, but in Minnesota, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit is three years after the date of the decedent’s death.
You Deserve Results-Oriented Legal Advocacy
We take a no-nonsense approach to seeking justice in serious injury and wrongful death cases. From day one, we remain focused on the ultimate goal. That requires early and full preparation for trial. A strong case is highly advantageous in settlement negotiations. In high-stakes personal injury challenges involving catastrophic and fatal injuries, developing a strong case is critical. To that end, our top priority is to produce results, based on hard work.
We provide zealous advocacy for people suffering from:
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions
- Back and spinal cord injuries that result in paraplegia, quadriplegia, debilitating pain and other physical impairments
- Broken bones and serious damage to joints, ligaments and tendons
- Disfiguring injuries, including scarring and severe burns
- Crush injuries
Contact an Experienced St. Paul Wrongful Death Attorney
We have offices in St. Paul and White Bear Lake to serve clients throughout Minnesota. If your family has been damaged by the negligence of another, let us give you a strong voice in court. To arrange a free consultation with our trusted lawyers, call 651-291-SAND (651-291-7263). You may also send us a message online.