What is a wrongful death?

A relatively straight forward legal tem, wrongful death means a person was killed as a result of something out of their control. It varies state by state, but in Louisiana it's defined as "if a person dies due to the fault of another." In many ways, it's like a personal injury lawsuit where the deceased cannot represent him or herself so the estate pursues legal action instead. Common cases include car accidents, unsafe work conditions, medical malpractice and product liability.

A wrongful death case might name an individual, a business or a corporation who may have acted improperly in causing the death. While it is a civil matter, the government can also pursue criminal charges in certain cases, such as a death caused by a drunk driver. By law, only surviving family can file a suit and it must be within one year of the death.

What does a wrongful death suit offer?

It's not about money or revenge. Wrongful death cases bring closure when a family faces a sudden loss. It's a way to hold the offending party responsible for an injustice that cannot be reversed.

When a loved one dies, it leaves a scar on the family. There is a painful emotional struggle but there is also a financial hardship as a result. If the deceased had children, not only did the child lose a parent, but also the economic security from lost wages, health insurance coverage, college savings and more. The court recognizes emotional pain in the total compensation, but the loss of a life also has a far reaching economic impact on those close to the victim.

Factors that determine compensation include:

  • Lost income
  • Lost household services
  • Funeral expenses
  • Medical and property damages from the incident
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages

The pain of a sudden loss is long term, a scar that will never fade away. Wrongful death offers ointment to the wound and a way to provide economic stability through a trying experience.

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