Following a fatal accident, the victim’s loved ones may be able to attain wrongful death compensation if the incident was caused by a person’s negligence or willful misconduct. This area of law is fairly complex as each state maintains its own set of statutes regarding the nature of these lawsuits. In general, a spouse, parent or child may file a claim, but there are notable exceptions to keep in mind.

Spouses may seek wrongful death compensation if their wife or husband is killed due to another person’s negligence. Even separated spouses may file a claim. Parents may seek damages for any biological or formally adopted child, but grandparents and stepparents may not. Likewise, an adult child may file a claim if their biological or adopted parent is killed due to negligence. There are statutes of limitations relevant to these claims. The first is the statute period regarding an injury claim that the deceased person may have sought. This is typically two years starting on the date of the initial injury. Surviving family members have their own statute of limitations period to file a lawsuit, which starts on the day of their loved one’s death. There are exceptions to this. That is why it is so important to speak to an attorney to see what limit applies to your case.

These lawsuits can be filed for a wide range of accidents, from vehicle crashes to work incidences to medical malpractice. If a driver kills someone while violating traffic law, they may be held responsible for negligently causing a fatality. If a homeowner fails to secure their backyard and a child wanders in and drowns in the homeowner’s pool, they may also be held responsible. Individuals and institutions can both be held responsible in these cases. Businesses that release dangerous products into the marketplace may also be responsible for wrongful death compensation if their products cause a fatal accident.

If the victim’s family can show that the defendant’s negligent actions were a primary reason for the fatality, the defendant may be responsible for two types of damages. Compensatory damages are more common and include medical costs, funeral costs, economic losses (usually the victim’s work salary) and an additional sum for loss of companionship. If the defendant’s actions were especially malicious or reckless, the court may also order the defendant to pay punitive damages. Punitive damages are also paid to the victim’s family.

It is not always clear whether or not a family can pursue a suit following an accident. A personal injury attorney can help a family determine how to approach their case and represent them during the process.