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What is wrongful death?

Wrongful death is a tort lawsuit that can be brought by the surviving family members of someone who has recently passed on due to the recklessness or negligence of another party. Louisiana law allows these surviving loved ones to file a wrongful death suit in most cases; if a parent abandoned his or her offspring during childhood, he or she has no right to take legal action. The state's statute of limitations prescribes that these filings must take place within a year of an individual's death.

In the event that a wrongful death occurs, the law dictates a hierarchy of who can bring forth a lawsuit. The surviving children or spouse of the deceased would be the first to file the suit. If there are no such surviving loved ones, the deceased's parents can then file suit. If these individuals also are not around, it falls to the siblings and then the grandparents of the deceased to file the legal action. Even those with adoptive relationships with the victim are able to file a wrongful death claim.

There are some instances in which criminal charges may be filed against the negligent party whose actions led to the decedent's death. As was the case during the O.J. Simpson trial in the 1990s, however, a not guilty verdict in criminal court does not mean that the at-fault party cannot be held civilly liable.

Losing a loved one is a difficult time in anyone's life, but it can be even more stressful if the reckless actions of another individual are what led to the event. Louisiana law provides protections for those who have lost family members in this manner, but action should be taken quickly since the statute of limitations is so short. With legal assistance, though, it could be possible for surviving family members to recover compensation for the loss of their loved one as well as a sense of justice and closure.

Source: The New York Times, "Jury Decides Simpson Must Pay $25 Million in Punitive Award," B. Drummond Ayres Jr., Feb. 11, 1997

Source: Louisiana State Legislature, "Art. 2315.2. Wrongful death action", October 23, 2014

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