Wrongful Death

While no lawsuit can ever possibly bring your loved one back, filing a wrongful death suit can protect your family financially as you deal with the emotional fallout of such a devasting loss. A civil wrongful death trial can only be initiated by specific parties in Louisiana, however. If a beloved family member recently passed away, an attorney can investigate the accident and help you seek damages from the at-fault party responsible for the tragedy.

Potential Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Under state law, victims of accidents caused by negligent behavior are allowed to recoup costs associated with the injury. In situations where the victim dies, either at the scene or later as a result of their injuries, the family can sue the person or entity who failed to uphold their basic duty of care and caused the accident. Wrongful death typically applies in situations of:

  • Negligence, like a distracted driver causing a fatal crash, a company releasing a dangerous product that hurts consumers, or an employer who fails to take steps to protect employees from harm
  • Malpractice on the part of medical staff
  • Intentional acts such as a violent crime

While the latter type of case may result in a criminal trial that could see the at-fault party receive prison time, that won’t help with your financial situation. A criminal conviction can offer closure, but it won’t take care of the bills piling up after the death of the family breadwinner. That’s why you need to speak with an attorney after a loved one is killed by any sort of negligent behavior, whether they died in a slip and fall accident, a vehicle collision, or by using a dangerous product.

Civil and criminal cases feature differing levels of evidence needed to establish guilt. A criminal prosecution for a murder requires evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction. However, civil wrongful death suits instead rely on what’s known as a “preponderance” of evidence.

In this type of case, your attorney gathers and presents evidence to a jury showing it is more likely than not that the defendant’s negligence led to your loved one’s death. If that person hadn’t driven recklessly or that trucking company hadn’t failed to fix the breaks on their vehicles, for instance, your family member would still be alive. The end goal of the lawsuit is to seek damages from the negligent party covering:

  • An estimation of the value of lost household services provided by the deceased
  • Burial and funeral costs
  • Lost benefits and earning potential from the deceased
  • Medical bills for the deceased
  • Non-economic damages for the survivor filing the suit, covering emotional issues like anguish, grief, and loss of companionship

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit

Unfortunately, the laws surrounding wrongful death have several potential pitfalls you need to know about ahead of time. First and foremost is the time limit established by the statute of limitations. You only have one single year from the date of your loved one’s passing to file a wrongful death suit, which is why it is important to contact a lawyer early.

Who can file the suit may also cause a stumbling block in the process. Usually, the closest living relative must bring the suit, but there is a specific order that must be followed under Louisiana law. A wrongful death lawsuit can specifically be brought by:

  • Children (adopted or blood-related)
  • Spouse
  • Parents, if the deceased had no spouse or surviving children
  • Siblings, if there are no surviving parents
  • Grandparents, if there are no surviving siblings

The bottom line is that if someone you cared about passed away, and you suspect their death could have been avoided, you need to talk with an attorney as soon as possible, no matter how you were related.

Get The Answers You Need From an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Our team of trial-ready professionals has a passion for protecting the legal rights of surviving victims. Schedule a consultation today to speak with an attorney about the circumstances of your loved one’s death. We want to hear about your situation and help you find the best path towards holding the negligent party responsible.

When someone dies as a direct result of negligent behavior, the law allows grieving family members to pursue a claim against the at-fault party. The specific type of claim can vary, however, depending on the circumstances. While a wrongful death action lets you recover damages incurred as a result of a loved one passing away, survival actions instead seek damages the person would have recovered if they hadn’t died.

Wrongful Death Cases in Louisiana

In either a wrongful death lawsuit or a survival action, the family needs to select someone to act as a personal representative for the deceased. Under state law, a wrongful death suit can be brought by the surviving:

  • Marriage partner
  • Child
  • Father or mother, if the spouse is deceased and there are no children
  • Siblings, if the parents, child, or spouse are no longer alive
  • Grandparents in situations where there is no spouse, child, parent, or sibling available

That breakdown isn’t always as cut and dried as it seems, however, which is why you should consult a legal professional quickly after a loved one passes away, as there are potential issues to untangle before going to court. For instance, a parent who left the family and didn’t take part in raising or financially supporting a child is legally considered to have “pre-deceased” their child and will likely be barred from bringing a suit. Depending on the family makeup, an unexpected member may have to pursue the claim, such as a spouse of one of the deceased’s children.

When that issue is resolved, the next step is to prove your loved one provided for the family and provide documentation of the specific amount of income earned. From there, your lawyer can argue how the death impacted the survivors while pursuing damages covering:

  • Financial support over the amount of time the deceased would have supported the family financially if they hadn’t passed away. That timeframe typically spans to age 18 for children, or until the person’s expected retirement age for their spouse.
  • Loss of support, services, and affection
  • Mental anguish
  • Burial and funeral expenses

Other extenuating circumstances can change the amount sought in a wrongful death claim, which is why it is crucial to work with a skilled attorney who has experience in these types of cases. For instance, those time frames may change if the deceased was expected to provide payment for a child’s college tuition costs or in situations where the person who passed away was financially supporting retired parents.

How Survival Action Differs From Wrongful Death

While it draws from the same list of people who can act as representatives, a survival action is distinct from a wrongful death suit in one crucial way. A survival action revolves around seeking damages the accident victim would have been awarded if they hadn’t passed away due to the injury. Those damages can potentially include factors like lost wages and the pain and suffering experienced by the victim before they died.

Survival actions may become complicated by the nature of the accident and the victim’s injury. If your loved one died at the scene or shortly after the accident, a representative typically can’t seek lost wages. They may still be eligible for non-economic damages covering issues like physical suffering or mental anguish, however.

Both survival actions and wrongful death suits also have a crucial limited time frame to act. Under Louisiana law, a family member can only pursue a wrongful death action or survival claim for up to one year after the date of death.

In either case, the surviving family member will need an attorney to file a lawsuit within that timeframe. A lawyer acts as the voice of your departed family by gathering all the required evidence and presenting the facts in court, as well as helping you handle common defenses from the at-fault party that likely doesn’t want to be held responsible for an untimely death.

Don’t Wait to Talk to an Experienced Wrongful Death Attorney

Did someone you love pass away in an accident that shouldn’t have happened? Set up a consultation with our trial-ready team to discuss your case and decide the best route forward in your family’s unique situation.

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