Losing a loved one is never an easy reality to face. It is especially difficult when their untimely death is attributed to the negligence or wrongful act of another. Aside from the grief and sadness that comes with losing a loved one, it also often results in financial challenges, significantly if the deceased contribute financially for their family. In these cases, it is appropriate for the decedent’s survivor to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party.
However, wrongful death claims are subject to strict requirements and can only be filed by specific survivors. Therefore, the guidance of a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer is valuable in ensuring that your loved one’s legacy and the claim are valid as its filed with the court.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a type of claim filed by specific survivors of a deceased person in cases where the fatality is attributed to the negligence, malpractice, or wrongful act of another party.
Who is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Case in Louisiana?
Louisiana Civil Code Article 2315.2 establishes the specific categories of survivors of the deceased individual that can bring a wrongful death claim to court.
Under Louisiana state law, the following survivors are entitled to file a wrongful death claim against the responsible party:
- The children or surviving spouse of the deceased person.
- If there are no surviving spouse or children, the surviving parents or parent of the decedent can file.
- If there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents of the deceased, then the decedent’s surviving siblings can file.
- If there are no surviving spouses, children, parents, or siblings of the decedent, then the surviving grandparents of the deceased can file.
- If there are no surviving family members of the deceased person, then the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim.
However, it is essential to note that parents who have abandoned the decedent during their childhood are precluded from filing a wrongful death claim. Moreover, adopted family members who are listed in the categories above, including, but not limited to, adopted children, adoptive parents, adoptive siblings, and adoptive grandparents can file wrongful death claims in court.
What Do I Need to Prove in a Wrongful Death Claim?
For a wrongful death claim to prevail in Louisiana, the following factors must be proven by the survivor on their claim:
- There is a death of a human being;
- The cause of the death is due to the negligence, malpractice, or intent to cause harm by another;
- There is a duty by the person who caused the death owed to the decedent;
- That duty owed to the decedent was breached; and
- The death of the individual has a negative financial impact on its surviving family members.
When Should the Survivor of the Deceased File for Wrongful Death Claim?
Generally, there is a one-year limit from the time of death for the survivors to file a wrongful death claim in court. This time limit is different from the statute of limitation imposed on any criminal charge that the State may have filed against the person responsible for the decedent’s death.
What are the Damages in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims are classified under personal injury law, and damages suffered by the survivors are a significant aspect of the settlements and claims in these cases. Damages in wrongful death claims can include non-economic and economic losses.
Economic damages refer to compensate the survivors for the tangible losses it incurred or will incur due to the decedent’s death. These costs are typically measurable and specific. Such damages could include:
- The cost of the burial and funeral expenses.
- The lost wages, income, and benefits of the deceased;
- The medical bills incurred by the deceased due to the illness and injury caused by the responsible party;
- The dollar value allocated to the damages to the property due to the decedent’s illness, injury, or death is caused by the responsible party.
In contrast, non-economic damages are typically more subjective than economic damages. This type of compensatory damages cannot be easily quantifiable with a certain amount like economic damages. Nonetheless, these claims are an essential aspect of a wrongful death claim. Such damages can include:
- The pain and suffering incurred by the deceased caused by the injury or illness caused by the responsible party;
- The loss of companionship, guidance, emotional support, emotional grief, and trauma suffered by the decedent’s survivors resulted from the suffering and death of the deceased.
Can a Survivor File a Wrongful Death Claim if the State has Already Filed Criminal Charges Against the Responsible Party?
The family can and should file a wrongful death claim even if the State has filed the criminal charge against the party responsible for the decedent’s death.
It is essential to recognize the significant distinction between a criminal case and a civil case. In a wrongful death claim, the State may charge the responsible party, making it a criminal case. However, a wrongful death claim is a civil case and can only be filed by the classified survivors of the decedent listed above.
Aside from the vast distinction between who can file and charge the responsible party in criminal and civil cases, the penalties also vary. In a criminal case, the penalties faced by the responsible party may include fines, probation, or prison time. However, in a civil case, the penalties faced by the responsible party are monetary damages, which include economic and non-economic damages that are payable to the decedent’s survivors.
In addition, criminal charges and civil claims do not directly affect each other even if they both stem from the same occurrence, which is the decedent’s death. Thus, a criminal charge filed by the State does not preclude the decedent’s survivors from filing a wrongful death civil claim against the responsible party.
The requirements set for wrongful death claims are time-sensitive and specific in nature. Thus, the help of an experienced lawyer is valuable to ensure that your claim meets the specifications within the law and that your family is compensated for the loss of your loved one. If you need assistance and representation in filing a wrongful death claim, give us a call (225) 963-9638, or you can go to our website at www.messerfirm.com to contact us about a free consultation.