Should I hire a wrongful death lawyer?

Wrongful Death Lawyer

By legal definition, wrongful death occurs when a fatality is caused by reckless, careless, or negligent actions of others. If you are considering whether you should hire a wrongful death lawyer, it is likely that you are experiencing grief and suffering because someone you love has died – maybe unexpectedly. It can be challenging to determine your next steps while you are experiencing painful emotions.

As a wrongful death lawyer in Frederick, MD, from a firm like Peeples Law Group can explain, here are two initial questions you should consider if you think you need legal representation. Your answers will help you to decide if hiring a wrongful death lawyer is your next step.

Are You the Right Person To File Suit?

A wrongful death claim is usually filed on behalf of survivors who had a familial relationship with the victim. In some states, only immediate family—parents, spouses, children—are able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In other states, extended relatives like aunts, uncles, or grandparents can file the lawsuit.

State laws also vary for other questions, like whether parents can sue over the death of an adult child, whether grown siblings can file a claim, or whether unmarried partners are eligible. If your relationship with the victim is beyond immediate family, you may want to consult an experienced wrongful death lawyer who can guide you on specific laws in your state. 

Does the Victim’s Death Meet Wrongful Death Criteria?

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil action, so the burden of proof is somewhat lower than in a criminal case. Claimants will need to be able to prove four key elements to define the case as a wrongful death. As you consider the circumstances of your loved one’s death, ask yourself about these criteria.

  1. Was someone negligent? For a successful claim, you will need to be able to prove that the death resulted from the reckless, careless, or negligent actions of another party.
  1. Did someone fail to meet their duty? Breach of duty means that the defendant owed a duty to the victim. For instance, a motor vehicle operator has a duty to drive safely and obey traffic laws. A doctor has a duty to support patient health.
  1. Did negligent actions cause the death? In a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to prove that the negligent actions were a direct cause of the victim’s death.
  1. Did the victim’s death result in damages? Death can be very expensive in a variety of ways. A wrongful death lawsuit must prove that the victim’s death resulted in quantifiable damages which may include medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, loss of potential earnings, loss of inheritance, and other damages.

If your answers are ‘yes’ to each of these four questions, it is likely you have the basis of a wrongful death lawsuit. The legal process can be complex, so seek the help of an experienced wrongful death lawyer in your area.