Justice, fairness, and the need recover financially from the unexpectedly loss of a family member who contributed to household expenses top the list of reasons to file a wrongful death insurance claim or civil lawsuit. As far from the popular misconception of wrongful death settlements and judgments as lottery wins and cash-ins as possible, most of the money suffering families receive goes to cover unpaid end-of-life medical bills, funeral expenses, and the lost wages of the deceased person. And since the money comes from individuals or corporations whose negligent or reckless actions resulted in an innocent person’s loss of life, wrongful death payments constitute only part of what is due on a debt that can never be repaid in full.
The need to compensate those we have harmed is a cornerstone of all ethical philosophies. A wrongful death case represents the ultimate claim to have those who inflicted the severest harm live up to their obligations as members of society. The Cleveland wrongful death attorneys with Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman are honored to play a role in making sure this happens. Here, we take the opportunity to explain the grounds for, and the process of, making wrongful death claims.
Causes for and Steps in a Wrongful Death Case
Anything that can cause a personal injury can also leave a person dead. This includes car accidents, medical malpractice, dangerous and defective products, and nursing home abuse. When a person or company is found to have exercised insufficient care and caution to prevent the incident that resulted in death, that individual or organization can be held liable for a wrongful death.
The first stages of making a wrongful death case is usually to work with a wrongful death lawyer in Cleveland, Ohio, to collect evidence that deceased victim suffered the terrible fate because of negligence or recklessness. Calculations and descriptions of the financial and emotional tolls taken by the loss of a husband, wife, mother, father, son, or daughter must also be prepared.
Once all of that information is presented to an insurance company, things can become confusing and contentious. Rather than agree to pay adequate compensation, insurance company representative may try to blame the deceased victim for causing his or her own death. Even if a settlement is offered, it is often much too low to be meaningful. Having representation from a skilled and caring Cleveland wrongful death lawyer as negotiations with insurers proceed can be invaluable for families who do not want to become victims a second time.
When an insurance company refuses to settle in a timely and fair way, the case goes to trial in civil court. The whole legal process involving depositions, motions, testimony, and deliberation can take years to reach a conclusion. To ensure families are not deprived of justice through insurance company delay tactics, Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman wrongful death attorneys work on contingency, meaning we only get paid if our clients succeed with their claims.
What Can Be Claimed in a Wrongful Death Case
As with personal injury cases, the majority of any settlement or judgment resulting from a wrongful death case represents compensation for economic damages. As noted above, the direct costs of suddenly and unfairly losing a loved one include burial expenses and family travel for the funeral, lost financial support from future earnings, and hospital or emergency care bills accrued in the period leading up to death.
Noneconomic damages, which are commonly referred to as “pain and suffering,” can also account for a good deal of a wrongful death payment. When a family member dies, the person’s spouse loses what lawyers call “consortium” (i.e., love and sex), children lose a parent’s care and guidance, siblings lose advice and support, and surviving parents lose a very part of themselves. Exact dollar values cannot be assigned to those losses, but each deserves compensation.
A final type of claim that can be made following a wrongful death is one for punitive damages. Asking for punitive damages is usually only possible when the responsible party acted recklessly by, for example, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or by knowingly selling a deadly product. Assessing punitive damages constitutes a noncriminal punishment and serves as a warning to others who might commit the same harmful act.
If you have additional questions regarding a wrongful death case, contact Agee Clymer Mitchell and Portman online or call us at (800) 678-3318. A consultation will cost you nothing.