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Frequently Asked Questions about Wrongful Death
Q: What is the difference between a civil case and a criminal case against someone who caused a death?
A: A criminal case can only be brought by the government. The prosecutor makes a case against the person accused of a crime, seeking prison time or another punishment. The prosecutor must meet a higher standard of proof than in a civil case. A civil case can be filed by anyone whose private rights or civil rights have allegedly been violated by another party. When a private party files a civil lawsuit for wrongful death, the party is seeking monetary damages, compensation for the loss suffered. A civil trial for wrongful death, therefore, is very different from a criminal trial for murder or manslaughter.
Q: What if an unborn child dies?
A: In many states, the baby must be born alive for its death to be the subject of a wrongful death lawsuit. This is not always the case, however. In some states, the fetus must have been viable (able to live outside the mother's womb) even though it was not born; in other states, viability is not an issue. Because the law varies so much from state to state, it is wise to consult an attorney who knows the laws in your area.
Each state has its own time limit for bringing a legal action for wrongful death. Do not delay. Contact our firm today to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
Kent, Washington, Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you are grieving over the wrongful death of a loved one, you probably have many questions. At the Seattle-area law firm of Law Offices of James Newton PLLC, our lawyers are dedicated to answering your questions and helping you get the compensation that can lessen financial worries as you try to put your life back together. We can build a strong case for payment for loss of consortium, loss of companionship, loss of household help and loss of future income. Contact our Kent, Washington, law office to learn more. Call us at 1-800-4-INJURY.
For more information about wrongful death, please review the material below.
Wrongful Death - An Overview
Losing a loved one is painful. Losing a loved one due to wrongful death can be even more difficult. If someone's wrongful actions caused injuries that resulted in your loved one's death, that is a wrongful death. At common law, there was no legal action that surviving family members could take. That changed, however, when governments began to make laws protecting survivors. Now, in every state in the US, the representative or heirs of a person lost to wrongful death may file a lawsuit for monetary damages. The laws, however, vary quite a bit from state to state, so consulting with an attorney from James Newton Law Office in Kent, Washington, is advisable.
The main method courts have for measuring loss in wrongful death lawsuits is pecuniary damages — that is, the court must determine the proper compensation for the financial loss that the death has caused. Though this may seem harsh or cold, money damages are the remedy that civil courts have at their disposal. Thus, when the courts measure loss, the first thing most of them turn to is quantifiable data:
- How much money did the deceased earn?
- How much money did the deceased save?
- How financially dependent were the survivors on the deceased?
The court will also take into consideration:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses
The Physician-Patient Privilege in Wrongful Death Cases
The physician-patient privilege is designed to help each patient feel free to tell the doctor the whole truth about what the patient is experiencing; that way, the doctor will have the best information for diagnosing and treating the patient. This privilege can be very important for the relationship between the doctor and the patient. When a patient passes away, however, what happens to the privilege?
If you want to take legal action because your loved one suffered a wrongful death, you may have questions about the privacy of the medical records involved. For more information on physician-patient privilege, speak with an experienced attorney.
The Wrongful Death of a Child or an Elderly Person
No matter what the age of the loved one you have lost, the grief is powerful. The law, however, often takes age into account when it assesses your loss. Because your loved one cannot be replaced, the law is at a disadvantage to truly compensate you. Money is one measure that the legal system can objectively use to reflect what has been lost. For more information on how the law applies to the wrongful death of your child or elderly relative, contact an attorney.
Statutes of Limitations and the Discovery Rule
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one due to wrongful death, the last thing you may want to think about is how your legal rights are affected. The law surrounding wrongful death, however, allows legal action to be taken only for a limited period of time. When this period has elapsed, you will no longer have the option of filing a lawsuit. An attorney can answer your questions about how much time you have to take action.
Monetary Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Legal actions for wrongful death can be very complex, especially when the harmful acts of several parties contributed to an individual's death. Some parties may settle the matter before the case goes to trial; others may see it all the way to a verdict. No matter who the defendant is, the amount and type of financial recovery the plaintiff can make depend on the law of the state in which the case takes place. Contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights.