When someone dies due to the irresponsibility, negligence or intentional acts of someone else, the legal term for this is “wrongful death.” Wrongful death is a term in civil law, as opposed to criminal law, and it’s the principle that allows those left behind to collect compensation for the death of their loved one. However, the law only allows specific individuals to file such a case.
It’s important that the right individuals take the right steps in order to secure a wrongful death settlement. Discover the facts about who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, how these cases tend to proceed, and why you need a qualified wrongful death attorney.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
As a civil suit, a wrongful death lawsuit is completely separate from a criminal case. It is possible for someone to be found not guilty of criminal charges, but still, be held liable for damages for a wrongful death case.
These cases are filed by surviving family members and are expressed in terms of the financial damages suffered by the surviving family. There is no criminal imprisonment, fines or probation imposed through a wrongful death suit, simply monetary awards to those filing the case.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If someone you loved dies in an incident caused by the malicious action or carelessness of another person, their immediate family may well be entitled to a wide range of damages, including medical bills leading up to their death, funeral costs, emotional damages, loss of financial support, loss of relationships and comfort, and in the most egregious cases, even punitive damages.
However, who can file a wrongful death lawsuit varies by individual state. In Maine, this comes down to the personal representative of the estate, someone who is designated as an executor or other administrators, either by the courts or in the decedent’s will. The decedent’s spouse, parents, children or other surviving family members may receive benefits from the claim, particularly if they were dependents of the decedent.
Wrongful Death Cases and the Will
If the decedent had a will when they passed away, this can affect those who may file the suit. In such a case, the courts will appoint an executor (if one is not already named in the will), or someone to act as a personal representative of the estate. This person, then, has the right to bring a wrongful death suit.
Time Limits on the Wrongful Death Suit
Every state has a statute of limitations during which you must file the lawsuit. Failing to file in a timely manner can cost you your ability to collect damages. In Maine, this statute of limitations is two years from the date of death. However, the longer you wait to file suit, the more difficult it may be to collect full damages. It’s always best to act quickly. This will not only enable you to build a stronger case, it will enable you to overcome any errors you might accidentally make.