When a loved one is killed as a result of someone else’s negligence, there’s no amount of compensation that can be presented to undo the damage or the grief the deceased’s close companions feel. In addition to the feelings of profound grief, families often, but not always, face financial hardships without the support of the deceased. Therefore, the compensation recovered from these lawsuits can help with either easing the financial burden and/or help with dealing with the resulting emotional pain.
According to a report released in 2019, the amount of fatal work injuries of workers aged 55 and older has increased to their highest levels to date. Surprisingly, of the deaths reported, trips, falls, and slips accounted for 10% of the total. Other jobs saw an increase in the number of work-related fatalities, including the following: a 15% increase in mining, a 19% increase in agriculture, a 6% increase in manufacturing, and a 10% increase in construction accidents. Law enforcement has also seen an increase in the number of work-related deaths. Although transportation-related deaths have been relatively consistent, it’s important to note that the number of fatalities in car accidents and truck driver accidents are still numerous.
Whether the accident was caused by gross negligence of an employer, or from an unintentional accident, wrongful death does occur, and in order to obtain the appropriate compensation, you will need adequate representation. In nearly three decades of Louisiana practice, I, Chip Forstall, have obtained millions of dollars for clients in wrongful death cases. It always tugs at my heart when I undertake these cases, however, it’s the hallmark of my business philosophy to take care of people. Whatever I and my team can do to help people in their time of grief is of immense satisfaction to me. To that end, we represent clients in wrongful death suits and can maximize compensation in numerous areas.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is essentially a civil lawsuit that a plaintiff pursues in order to recover damages from the party responsible for a loved one’s death. It’s important to remember that this is a civil action, and is not a criminal charge. In a criminal trial, the plaintiff is essentially the state and the repercussions for the defendant are much more severe, namely the possibility of spending time in prison. Also, in a criminal action, there are many different rules in regards to both law and procedure. If you believe that the responsible party deserves more severe sanctions, then a criminal charge can be brought against them (alongside your civil suit).
Who can file a wrongful death claim in Louisiana?
When a person dies due to the fault of another, a lawsuit to recover damages may be brought by the following parties. These parties include, but are not necessarily limited to, the surviving spouse and / or their children, the surviving father and mother (if there are no spouse or children), the surviving siblings (if there are none of the parties above), and the surviving grandparents (if there are none of the parties above).
How long does it take to settle a wrongful death case?
Some of these lawsuits can settle relatively quickly, meaning within a matter of months. However, others can take one or more years to be resolved. At the end of the day, the speed of your case through the court system will depend on many factors, including but not limited to: the demeanor of you and the defendant, the willingness of the parties to negotiate, the amount of evidence gathered, the type of evidence gathered, and the overall circumstances surrounding the accident itself. Another factor in determining length is whether the defendant is allowed bail and whether they can post such bail.
In awarding damages for a wrongful death lawsuit, the court considers several factors, including but not limited to: the life expectancy of the parties, the closeness of the relationship between the parties and the deceased, the amount of income provided by the deceased, the amount of income other members of the deceased’s family earn, and the value of the household services provided by the deceased.
There are certain grounds for which you can bring your wrongful death claim. One is the loss of income provided by the deceased. Another is the loss of guidance, care, and companionship the dependents might reasonably have been expected to receive. Another is the loss of income sustained by the claimant as a result of the death (for example if the claimant was the spouse and both were running a business together). Yet another is the traveling expenses of the dependents while they were visiting the person during treatment and prior to his or her death.
Depending on the grounds on which you file your claim, there may be certain damages you will be entitled to. These include, but are not limited to, the following: medical expenses, funeral expenses, household expenses due to loss of financial support, mental health expenses due to loss of love and affection.
In the state of Louisiana, there is no set limit on the amount of financial compensation that the court may award in a wrongful death claim. There are some types of lawsuits that are similar or are in the same realm as wrongful death claims that have limits. For example, for medical malpractice cases, there is a $500,000 cap on damages. There is also a cap on damages regarding negligence cases against government agencies. To be sure whether limits to damages apply to your specific case, it’s important to speak with a qualified attorney on the matter. It’s also important to note that Louisiana has one of the shortest statutes of limitations in regards to wrongful death actions. Specifically, you have one year from the date of loss to file a claim.
The following injuries have been more likely to be followed by death. It’s important to remember that this is not always true. At the end of the day, several factors need to be considered, the main one being the timing and quality of medical care that you receive.
Accidental amputation: An amputation is the removal of a body part. This can be done in a hospital or can occur in an accident of some sort. There are two main types of amputations, complete and partial. The former involves a body part being completely removed, and the latter involves a body part being partly removed. Both these types of amputations can result in the death of a patient. In this case, it depends on the body part that has been amputated. If a non-fatal body part has been taken off, the chances of survival are usually higher, whereas a more crucial amputation can lead to death (no matter how efficient the medical procedure). For example, if the victim’s arm gets amputated in an accident, unless prolonged blood loss occurs, there is a good chance the victim will survive. However, if the victim’s leg gets amputated in a manner in which other body parts are at risk of failure, then the damage can be catastrophic.
Burns: Burns from car accidents, as well as from other sources, are classified based on their severity. First-degree burns are those that only affect the top layer of skin. Second-degree burns reach the second layer of skin and therefore cause more intense blistering of the skin and other body parts. Third-degree burns reach under the skins and can cause permanent damage to blood vessels, tissue, and nerves. It’s important to remember that burns may show one degree of severity at the scene of the accident but can be evolved to a much worse situation later on. In regard to death, first and second-degree burns usually do not cause death. However, third-degree burns, especially ones that are not immediately treated, will most definitely result in the death of the victim.
Brain injuries: An open brain injury (also called a penetrating brain injury) is one in which your scalp breaks and part of the skull may enter the brain. On the other hand, a closed brain injury is any one that doesn’t involve the skull being broken. Specifically, a closed brain injury is caused by a rapid forward or backward movement which causes the brain to shake inside the skull. Note that it can be hard to assess how serious a head injury is by just looking at it, meaning an x-ray by a medical professional is usually needed. Brain injuries can be one of the most complicated causes of death. The reason for this is because there are four different types of results from brain injuries. First, the injury may cause damage, which treatment or surgery can fix. Second, the brain injury may cause damage that requires extensive surgery, along with long-term care afterward. These types of brain injuries, while very disruptive to the victim’s lifestyle, do not usually cause death. Third, there may be such a severe brain injury, that even after an attempted surgery, there is still a resulting death. Finally, and the most complicated, is the situation where the brain injury induces the victim into a coma-like state. In this situation, it is very difficult to ascertain whether the accident caused death, or the treatment of the coma was a contributing factor towards death.
Spinal cord injuries: Injuries of the spinal cord that are associated with a car accident are often caused by trauma to the neck or the back. Specifically, this kind of force occurs when a vehicle collides either with another vehicle or with an obstacle. However, spinal cord injuries can happen in numerous circumstances. For example, motorcycle accidents, workplace injuries, etc. In severe cases, when spinal cord injuries result in either partial or complete paralysis, an injured person will require considerable treatment over the long term. These injuries can result in one of the most painful and emotionally distressing deaths. In regard to wrongful deaths, these kinds of accidents usually occur in one of two places. One of those is the workplace, and more specifically at construction sites. There are numerous dangerous materials and equipment, and the workers are almost always at high elevations. Therefore, if they fall down, there is a good chance that their spinal cord would get injured. The other place these kinds of accidents usually occur is during motor vehicle accidents, and more specifically in motorcycle accidents.
Medical malpractice: When a wrongful death occurs from a medical malpractice situation, the resulting lawsuit can be extremely complicated. The reason for this is because it’s very difficult to prove whether the accident was the cause of death or whether the malpractice of the medical professional was the cause. It’s also important to note that in these kinds of cases, there’s a big difference between the incident being the causation of death or the incident being the contributing factor for death. The answers to these questions will usually end up determining where liability falls, and therefore, how your lawsuit is resolved.
Legal actions revolving wrongful deaths are some of the most heartbreaking, complex, and contentious kinds of lawsuits that can be argued. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you take the time to choose an attorney who is qualified not only in the legal aspects of the case but also in regard to the compassion needed to deal with the victim’s loved ones.