Coping with the unexpected death of a loved one is heartbreaking, and even more so when the death was caused by another person, the government, or a corporation’s maliciousness or neglect. Wrongful deaths, caused by the acts or omission of others, are an alarmingly common cause of death in the US. In fact, every year, over 98,000 deaths in the medical industry alone are preventable. Many other wrongful death suits arise from car accidents and workplace accidents every year as well.
How common are wrongful deaths? Quite common. In the medical industry alone, you’ll often read about horror stories on blogs or in the local newspaper that involve a relatively healthy person entering a hospital for one ailment, and ended up stricken with another one, such as a deadly skin infection like MSRA. It’s sadly common to lose a loved one in a medical setting, and many of these deaths could be considered, at the very least, preventable. Many of them would be considered wrongful, as well.
Wrongful death accidents can happen in almost setting, from the workplace to the victim’s home or even on the road. Building a strong wrongful death case requires an experienced attorney who can illustrate that the accident could have easily been avoided.
While most wrongful death lawsuits take place in civil court, many people who have filed a lawsuit will also have a criminal investigation taking place as well, especially in cases where the cause of death was ruled a homicide.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Minnesota?
The state of Minnesota has several statutes that define “wrongful death” in the eyes of the court. Wrongful death, defined is a death “caused by the wrongful act or omission of any person or corporation.” A “wrongful act” may involve negligence, such as omitting information about an automobile part under recall. It can intentional action as well, such as an assault or even shoddy housework that causes a deadly fall.
How Do Wrongful Death Lawsuits Work?
In Minnesota, filing wrongful death claim is similar to filing a standard personal injury claim. The difference is that the injury has caused the death of the injured person, and they are unable to speak on their own behalf in court. Because of this, the a wrongful death lawsuit is usually filed by the surviving family members of the deceased person or a trustee must bring the case to court on the deceased person’s behalf.
In order to file a lawsuit, the lawsuit can only be filed by the immediate family members affected by the loss. This means the surviving spouse and his or her children, parents, grandparents, and/or siblings of the deceased person. When the family members bring a claim in court, you can make monetary claims for not only the loss of the victim, but also any losses they suffered personally.
This means that if children require counseling, or the family finds themselves living a lower level quality of life, your attorney can try to get you compensation for that. While it is very difficult to put a dollar value on loss of life and the grief that comes with it, an attorney can help get you the money you need to transition and survive the initial shock at your loss. This is why finding a competent personal injury attorney is important.
If surviving family members do not want to file their own lawsuit, or they are unable to (for example, they are minors or disabled) then they can ask the court to appoint a trustee to pursue the claim on their behalf. Usually, the family members can choose their trustee, and present the court with the name of their chosen trustee on the petition. The trustee will then be held responsible for pursuing the wrongful death claim in court, and making sure that the claim is paid out fairly to the claimants.
Documenting Damages and Expenses
When a party is found liability in a Minnesota wrongful death lawsuit , they will have to make amends through monetary damages. Not all damages and costs will be reimbursed. Because of this, it’s very important to hold on to every receipt and information on all expenses.
Typically, a wrongful death claim will cover reasonable funeral and burial expenses. The key word here is “reasonable” – which means don’t go overboard with anything too fancy. A casket and memorial service can cost a lot out-of-pocket anyway, but adding too much money in for flower arrangements will make your claim more difficult to justify. Other expenses often covered in a wrongful death case are care, treatment, and hospitalization prior to the victim’s death.
Your family might be eligible for other, less tangible losses such as loss of protection, care, and income or wages, and benefits. If the death of your loved one causes you to hire an at-home caretaker because the deceased once performed these duties, the court can choose put a dollar value on this as well.
A professional attorney can help you document any pain and suffering, counseling, or life changes caused by the death of a loved one. An attorney is beneficial even for trustees, who may have trouble navigating the court system as well.
Not sure what expenses count as losses? Save all your receipts and bills related to the loss. Your attorney can help you go through them and decide which are most relevant. Fortunately, Minnesota recognizes not only the loss of earnings, but also the loss of “services” provided by the decedent, such as cooking, cleaning, or doing repair work. The law also allows for compensation of mental anguish.
Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Lawsuits
Minnesota does have a statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in court. According to the law, a wrongful death lawsuit paperwork must be filed within three years of the date of the death of your loved one.
If the claim is not filed within three years, the court can reject the lawsuit and choose to not hear it. However, there are exceptions to this as well. Sometimes, a later investigation or court case will reveal a pattern of neglect or abuse, for example, at a corporation such as a care home or a workplace that breaks safety regulations. In this case, you may be one of the last to know that the death of your loved one was by somebody at-fault. If this is the case with you, it’s very important to contact a reputable attorney to help you decide if you want to file a lawsuit for a wrongful death accident and learn more about your rights and the burden of proof.
Are you thinking of filing a lawsuit? Need to know more about your rights and navigating the court system? Please contact us, and we can set up a time to talk and go over your options.