Wrongful Death FAQ

Q: What if the victims dies before he or she can file a personal injury claim?

A: It depends whether or not the death is a result of the injuries. If the death is the cause of the injuries, the surviving relatives of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation for the death of the deceased. Every state has its own wrongful death statute. If the cause of the death is unrelated to the injury, then the claim will survive in post cases and the deceased victim’s heirs or personal representative can file the claim.

Q: What happens if an unborn child dies?

A: In most states, the law requires the child to be born alive for a wrongful death claim. So in most states, no wrongful death claim will lie for the death of an unborn child. Speak to a wrongful death attorney in your state to know the exact laws of your state.

Q: What is the difference between criminal and civil cases related to the death of an individual?

A: A criminal case is filed to punish the defendant for a criminal act. A civil case involves disputes over that duties and rights the parties have towards one another. In a criminal case, the defendant must be proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt and the penalty in a criminal case could be a jail term, fine or community service. In a civil suit, the defendant will be asked to pay monetary compensation to the plaintiff.

Q: Do wrongful death statutes provide for punitive damages?

A: In most states, the wrongful death statutes do not provide for punitive damages but in some states there are specific statutes that provide for punitive damages.

Q: Are the wrongful death laws same in all states?

A: No. Wrongful death statutes vary by state. Not all types of wrongful deaths qualify as a wrongful death within the scope of the wrongful death statute in some states. The wrongful death statutes in some states place limitations on the awards. The statute of limitation can also vary from state to state.

Q: Does the law require that the deceased victim be employed or be earning at the time of the death for a wrongful death claim to arise?

A: No. The surviving relatives of any person, whether employed, unemployed, retired or disabled can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Employment is not the only way a person can contribute to his or her family. For example a stay at home mom does not is not employed nor earning but she contributes towards the family. Such contributions qualify as pecuniary loss.

Q: Can the surviving relatives claim compensation for the pain and sufferings endured by the deceased prior to death?

A: Yes, besides the wrongful death claim, the surviving family members can seek compensation for the pain and sufferings endured by the deceased prior to death.

Q: Will a wrongful death claim lie if the deceased victim is a child or an elderly person?

A: Yes. The surviving relatives of the deceased child or elderly person can file a wrongful death claim. However the courts seldom award large damages where the deceased victim is a child or elderly person.

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