Wrongful death claims are suits filed against a defendant accused of either negligently or intentionally and recklessly causing someone’s death. Wrongful death claims allow the estate (most often the spouse or surviving family) of the deceased to sue the responsible party liable for the death.
If a wrongful death has occurred, it is important to consider the statute of limitations for filing a claim. A statute of limitations is a time limit on how long a person can wait before filing suit. Commonly, the legal time limit is set around two years of the date that the misconduct occurred.
It is always a best practice to act as quickly as possible when considering legal counsel. So why do people sometimes wait too long? Unfortunately many people do not know when a wrongful death of a loved one has occurred.
People who have suffered a loss face many financial burdens and must deal with complex issues that few consider until that sad hour is at hand. It often takes a while before anyone tries to determine who is responsible for an untimely death, and it can be difficult to define “wrongful death” in everyday terms.
Considering the different types of suits that fall under the category provides one of the best opportunities to understand what constitutes wrongful death. In order to help clarify, we have provided a list of circumstances that often lead to wrongful death as well as a brief example of each.
Medical malpractice- Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or health care-provider causes harm and/or death of a patient either directly or indirectly by failing to competently perform their medical duties.
Some common examples of medical malpractice include: unnecessary or failed surgery, failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis, incorrect dosage of medication or wrong prescriptions, misread lab results, early discharge, and incorrect or poorly timed follow-up care.
Automobile and airplane accidents- Wrongful death lawsuits seek compensation for the survivors’ loss in the event of a vehicular accident caused by another person operating the vehicle or by a responsible entity, such as a vehicle manufacturer.
Examples include: a person drinking or texting and driving hits another vehicle causing death, a vehicle manufacturer uses or fails to recall faulty parts that contribute to an accident, or the driver of a taxi or mass-transport such as a bus, train or airplane acts carelessly resulting in the death of a passenger.
Criminal behavior- Any criminal act that leads to the death of a family member may be grounds for a lawsuit. Examples include: a physical altercation that leads to a violent act that results in the loss of life or a negligent act such as failure to comply with local pool enclosure law that leads to someone drowning.
Occupational death or death during a supervised activity- This type of wrongful death takes many forms due to the wide variety of jobs and supervised occupations. Examples include: a drowning at a public pool within posted hours notifying the presence of a lifeguard on duty, any death that occurs on the job including jobs that require the operation of heavy or dangerous machinery and any occupation that may expose a worker to chemicals or hazardous materials.
With these definitions and examples in mind, given the time-sensitive nature of wrongful death suits, if there is any question that you or a loved one may have suffered a wrongful death in the family contact a legal professional for advice.
Frank Cristiano is a Denver Malpractice Attorney and Legal Blogger for CristianoLaw.com