When someone is killed by negligent, reckless, or intentional acts, the family has a right to sue the responsible parties for wrongful death. For the claim to be successful it must be properly prosecuted under the provisions of Louisiana law.
The first step is to establish who has a right to file the lawsuit, which can often cause a delay, and the statute of limitations is only one year from the date of death.
That’s why it’s important to contact an experienced New Orleans wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the incident that resulted in death. Wright & Gray has earned its reputation as one of the top wrongful death attorneys in Louisiana.
Call Wright & Gray at 504-500-0000 for a free consultation
Louisiana’s Wrongful Death Statute
Louisiana Civil Code, 2315.2 states that “if a person dies due to the fault of another, suit may be brought to recover damages which they sustained as a result of the death.”
The statute clarifies the priority given to family members to bring the suit but also mentions that “the right of action . . . (is) one year from the death of the deceased.” This means that the statute of limitation – or the time frame within which someone should file a wrongful death suit if they are inclined to do so – is only one year.
The statute also prohibits parents that have abandoned their children while the children were still minors from bringing these types of claims.
Louisiana’s wrongful death statute is straightforward but doesn’t give the family much time to file a lawsuit, so it’s important to speak to a New Orleans wrongful death attorney like our team at Wright & Gray promptly to get the ball rolling.
What Are The Types Of Wrongful Death Cases?
A wrongful death case is essentially a personal injury case that results in death. If the deceased person died instantly, then wrongful death would be the only cause of action.
In some cases in which there’s a gap between the wrongful act and the time of death, it’s also possible for the family to sue for damages for the pain, suffering and mental anguish that the victim endured.
Here are some of the types of cases that could lead to a wrongful death suit:
Any type of wrongful or negligent act that leads to death can form the basis of a wrongful death action. The best way to find out if there is a case worth pursuing is to speak to an experienced New Orleans wrongful death attorney who can apply the facts to the law.
Who Has Standing to File A Claim?
Louisiana law is very specific about who may file a claim for wrongful death on behalf of a deceased person.
This is the order of preference:
- Surviving spouse and children;
- Surviving parent or parents;
- Surviving siblings or
- Surviving grandparents.
Relatives by adoption are treated in the same manner as relatives by blood or marriage. More distant relatives and friends do not have standing to pursue a wrongful death action. Both a spouse and a child can make a claim but surviving parents do not have a claim unless the deceased did not have a surviving spouse or children.
In order to retain a New Orleans wrongful death attorney, you must have standing to file a claim.
What Needs To Be Proven in a wrongful death case?
For every type of wrongful death case, it is necessary to prove the following elements:
- DUTY: The first thing that must be proven for every type of personal injury case is that the defendant owed a duty to the claimant. For example, drivers have a duty to drive safely, and property owners have a duty to keep their premises safe. Sometimes there is no duty, such as if somebody who broke into your home injured themselves while inside.
- BREACH OF DUTY: Once it is established that the defendant had a duty, it is necessary to show how that duty is breached. For example, the duty of care of a driver is breached if they do not stop at a stop sign or red light and duty of care of a property owner is breached if they fail to repair a step that’s been broken for months.
- DEATH: It must be established with admissible evidence that the claimant is deceased.
- CAUSATION: It must be proven that the actions of the defendants were what caused the death, and not something else. For example, if the claimant went home after the accident, never sought medical attention and died two weeks later, it would be difficult to prove the connection between the incident and their death.
An experienced New Orleans wrongful death attorney knows how to put all these elements together to create successful claims that result in large amounts of compensation for the grieving family.
What Damages Can Be Collected For Wrongful Death?
In a wrongful death action, the damages compensate surviving family members for the losses they sustained because of the death of their relative. Like with a personal injury claim, both economic and non-economic damages can be claimed.
These are some examples of the types of economic damages for a wrongful death case:
- Burial and Funeral Expenses;
- Lost Earnings and Benefits;
- Healthcare Expenses and
- Household Services.
A claimant can only claim damages that apply to their relationship with the deceased. For example, adult offspring that lived hundreds of miles away from their deceased parents would not be likely to succeed with a claim for household services.
Children claiming lost earnings and benefits would need to show that the deceased parent had been at least partially responsible for their support at the time of death.
Non-economic damages compensate survivors for their grief, loss of companionship, loss of guidance and loss of emotional support due to the death of their relative.
The strength of the non-economic damages claim will depend on the closeness of the relationship – people living in the home with the deceased person when they died will have the stronger claims and people living overseas that haven’t spoken to the deceased in years have the weakest claims.
Can A Relative Collect Damages For The Victim’s Pain and Suffering?
It’s also possible for relatives to collect non-economic damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish that the victim suffered prior to their death.
To succeed with this claim, it’s necessary to show that the victim did not immediately succumb to his injuries. The amount of compensation will hinge on the following:
- How long did the victim survived after the wrongful act;
- The degree of awareness the victim had about their condition;
- The amount of painful and/or invasive medical procedures; and
- Other factors.
It’s possible to collect compensation for pain and suffering even if the victim only survived for a few minutes, but the amount of damage would be minimal. The same concept would apply if the victim was alive for a longer amount of time but was in a coma and never woke up.
On the other hand, a person that was alive for days in terrible pain, knowing they are likely to die and/or that their body has been mutilated might have a very large claim. Every case is different, so it’s important to speak to an experienced New Orleans wrongful death attorney about the particular facts of your case.
Contact a New Orleans Wrongful Death Attorney
It cannot be stressed enough how prompt action is required to make a successful claim for wrongful death. The statute of limitations is only one year, and it can take time to establish who has standing to bring the action.
Having tangible evidence is extremely important because the victim is not alive to tell their story, so starting an investigation as soon as possible helps to ensure that evidence is preserved.
Wright & Gray has gotten some of the highest awards for wrongful death cases in Louisiana. The patient and caring attorneys at Wright & Gray will help you understand your rights and will fight to get you the largest amount of compensation possible under the circumstances.
Our team prides ourselves in going the extra mile for each client to achieve excellent results and legendary client satisfaction. If you suspect that your loved one met an untimely death due to someone else’s wrongful actions, contact Wright & Gray for a free consultation.