What Is A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Losing a loved one has immeasurable, devastating effects on the surviving family members. The emotional impact when someone you love is killed is overwhelming, and simply making it through each day can take all of your energy, whether you’re a husband, wife, parent, sibling, or child. But when an individual or business is at fault for causing the death of a family member, it’s important to hold them accountable and be properly compensated. This can be done by filing a Minnesota wrongful death lawsuit.
There is clear emotional suffering and deep personal loss when someone you love dies, like the loss of companionship and guidance. There are other factors to consider as well, such as the financial impact of lost income, arranging a funeral and burial, medical bills, and additional costs, all of which can lead to serious hardships and financial instability for those left behind. By hiring a Minnesota wrongful death attorney, the surviving family can seek the compensation they need and deserve to live and be financially stable in the coming years.
But what is a wrongful death lawsuit? What laws determine who can file a claim and the types of damages that can be sought?
Wrongful death laws vary from state to state. Minnesota statutes section 573.02 states that a wrongful death is a death “caused by the wrongful act or omission of any person or corporation.” There is a time limit of three years from the date of the death – the statute of limitations – for these lawsuits.
Generally speaking, a Minnesota wrongful death claim may be filed if the person who died could have made a personal injury claim had they survived. In criminal cases, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which can be extremely difficult. But in a wrongful death claim, as long as the plaintiff (surviving family) demonstrates that, more likely than not, a person or business is responsible for the death, they may be held liable.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Unfortunately, thousands of accidents cause catastrophic, fatal injuries each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), unintentional injury deaths were the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, amounting to over 200,000 fatalities.
There are many ways a person or corporation could be liable for someone’s death, even if it’s not intentional. Some examples and common causes of wrongful death include:
- Car accidents (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, distracted, and reckless driving)
- Pedestrian accidents
- Medical malpractice (misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, and prescription, treatment, and surgical errors)
- Defective products (faulty manufacturing, failure to warn of risks)
- Motorcycle accidents
- Work accidents (unsafe practices, improper use of equipment, lack of training)
- Nursing home neglect
- Toxic exposure
- Slips and falls (premises liability if on someone else’s property)
In many wrongful death lawsuits, an individual, business, or a combination may be liable. For example, a medical malpractice lawsuit could name not just the doctor or other medical professional involved but also the hospital. And with car accidents or pedestrian accidents, the county or city may be named in a wrongful death claim if there were road issues that contributed to the cause of the accident.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Minnesota?
Who is able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit can vary. In Minnesota, the deceased person’s spouse, children, parents, grandparents, or siblings may file these claims. Eligible family members must petition the court to appoint a trustee for wrongful death lawsuits. The trustee is usually a family member, and they’re responsible for hiring a wrongful death attorney. They act on behalf of the surviving family and are involved with settlement negotiations. If a settlement isn’t reached, the trustee would then be involved with the court case.
When a settlement is agreed to, or damages are awarded by verdict, the trustee would propose how the compensation should be distributed. The amounts for each family member are typically based on the impact and loss they’ve suffered individually. For example, the spouse of a deceased loved one would have relied heavily on their income and companionship. If they had children, the death of a parent would also mean the loss of an essential provider who assisted and cared for the family. Therefore, the spouse and their children would be significantly impacted by their death and receive more than others, such as siblings.
However, sometimes the surviving family doesn’t agree on who and how much each person receives from a settlement or jury award. When this happens, a hearing is held, and the court decides on the distribution of compensation.
How to Prove Wrongful Death
Like personal injury claims, it takes time to build a wrongful death lawsuit in Minnesota. Wrongful death lawyers need to collect and analyze as much information and evidence as possible, so the sooner you speak with an attorney, the better.
Be prepared to provide the key facts of the incident and for your lawyer to speak with each family member to understand the impact of their loss. Wrongful death attorneys gather medical reports and bills, the death certificate, and police reports, and if medical malpractice is involved, they’ll get a copy of the autopsy report.
Your legal team will interview witnesses and take integral witness statements. In many wrongful death claims, the attorney will visit the scene of the accident and collect and take photos and video evidence to strengthen your case.
In many wrongful death claims in Minnesota, attorneys hire expert witnesses. These experts review bank records, income, and other financial information to support a claim and demonstrate the level of financial loss. Essentially, experts break down the many ways the death of a loved one has – and will – affect the family.
In addition to the extensive work and evidence-gathering that a wrongful death attorney performs, they handle communication and negotiations with insurance companies if they’re involved. This allows you to focus on grieving and coping with your family’s loss. But it also helps to hold the insurance company accountable for what’s owed and that they don’t take advantage of or push the surviving family into a settlement.
Unfortunately, hospitals, governments, and insurers have a lot of money and a dedicated legal team to fight wrongful death claims. Their attorneys will do all they can to deny liability or settle for a much smaller amount than what you could and should get. By hiring a wrongful death attorney to represent your family’s best interests and protect your rights, you can rest assured you have a team to push back against the defendant’s representation.
It’s not unusual for it to take months for an attorney to gather the necessary evidence for a claim. The investigation, organization of materials and evidence, and filing a wrongful death claim take time. At the end of the day, wrongful death claims must show how the other party’s negligence or wrongful act makes them liable. The claim must demonstrate there was a duty of care by an individual or corporation, and the failure to meet that duty of care more likely than not resulted in the death.
Speaking with a wrongful death lawyer soon after losing a loved one best ensures that you and your family are adequately compensated. And if you’re unsure if you have grounds for a lawsuit, you can find out with a free consultation – most personal injury and wrongful death attorneys offer these.
Damages to Seek in a Minnesota Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The widespread, devastating impact of losing a loved one causes a ripple effect across all aspects of your life. When someone or a business is liable for their death, it can be even more difficult to accept. Dealing with the emotional struggles and supporting and leaning on others affected should be your focus – and it can be if you hire a wrongful death attorney. They not only hold those responsible for their role in the death but help get the financial security and damages you deserve.
The loss of a household income, benefits, and future earnings is significant, especially if the victim would have many more years of work and life ahead of them. This information is crucial in determining the type and amount of damages to seek, but there’s more to it.
In Minnesota, other damages in wrongful death lawsuits that may be pursued include:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical expenses from the accident prior to the death (hospital bills and surgeries)
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and counsel
- Loss of comfort, assistance, and protection (a deceased parent no longer there for a child)
The age, health, and life expectancy of the deceased family member are also considered when determining damages in a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations
It’s important to note that the statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit in Minnesota is three years from the date of the death, but there are some exceptions. Claims against any level of government are a bit different.
In these cases, the family must notify the government entity within 180 days of the death. The notice must include key details like when and where the incident occurred, any employees that were involved, and the damages they’re seeking. The government reviews the information and decides if it will meet the request. If not, the family has three years to file a wrongful death lawsuit against them.
Another exception to the statute of limitations for wrongful death cases in Minnesota is when the deceased was murdered. These lawsuits may be filed at any time.
Due to the time restrictions for making a claim, the extensive work required by a legal team, and the complexity of these cases, it’s crucial to speak with a Minnesota attorney as soon as possible. Doing so will help ensure your claim is as strong as it can be by showing the impact and consequences of wrongful death.
Contact a Minnesota Wrongful Death Attorney
When you lose someone you love and depend on in several ways, each day is a hurdle to overcome, and all of your energy and emotional capacity is put towards grieving. While you could handle dealings with an insurance company on your own, they’ll often offer far less than what you’re entitled to – at a time when you’re most vulnerable.
A wrongful death lawsuit won’t take away the pain of your loss, but it could provide financial stability for your family and ease the stress of how you’ll afford to continue living. The Minnesota wrongful death attorneys at Bradshaw & Bryant have proven experience helping surviving family members be compensated for their loss. Our compassionate team provides the level of service and dedication you deserve as you grieve the death of someone you love.
As a client, you’ll see firsthand our determination and commitment to hold those accountable for their negligence or wrongful actions that caused a tragedy that forever changed you and your family’s lives. Wrongful death lawsuits are complex, and the sooner you get started, the better. Contact Bradshaw & Bryant online or at 1-800-770-7008 for a free consultation.