What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Delaware, a wrongful death occurs when a wrongful act by one person causes the death of another person, for which that person could pursue a personal injury case had his death not occurred. Essentially, it is a personal injury case brought by the surviving family members of the deceased.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil matter instigated by private parties. In Delaware, it is permissible to file a wrongful death suit in addition to criminal charges filed by the state against the person responsible. However, criminal charges need not be pursued to mount a successful wrongful death case.
How is Liability Determined in Delaware?
In wrongful death cases, it must be demonstrated that the defendant is liable for the accident or circumstance that led to the death. Commonly, it must be shown that the responsible party was negligent in some way and that negligence eventually led to the death of the victim. Though it can be tricky to determine liability in some cases, a skilled attorney can help find and preserve evidence, talk to expert witnesses, and more.
Some of the more common wrongful death cases arise from:
Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Delaware?
In Delaware, the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to benefit the spouse, children, parents, or siblings of the deceased person. The law is flexible when it comes to defining the ties between loved ones, and it is inclusive of many types of family relationships, but not all relationships recognize a legal right in every death.
Parents do not have to be married. Any child born of the deceased would also be entitled to make a claim, regardless of whether the deceased was married to the other parent or not. In some unique instances, the courts will allow someone other than these people to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
If no parents, children, spouse, or siblings are available or want to file a wrongful death suit, then others related to the deceased through blood or marriage can make a claim. However, if you cannot claim a blood relationship with the deceased, you may not be able to make your case. For instance, if you were in a relationship with them but did not have children and never got married, you may have a difficult time proving your case in court.
Additionally, if your loved one died out of the State of Delaware, surviving family members may still be entitled to make a claim. The specifics of the situation would dictate which state would be the most appropriate in which to file the lawsuit.
What Types of Compensation Can Be Recovered in a Delaware Wrongful Death Claim?
In Delaware, family members can recover compensation for:
- Funeral expenses (up to a certain amount): You can be repaid for what you paid to bury your family member. You may also seek payment for medical expenses related to the wrongful death.
- Lost income and benefits: The court can calculate how much your loved one would have made had they continued to work.
- Lost contributions of child or spousal support: You can recover money your loved one would have paid to support you or your children if you did not work or had a monetary agreement in place.
- Lost household services: You can be compensated for the everyday labor your loved one would have performed.
- Mental anguish: Dealing with an unexpected death can cause emotional pain and other mental health conditions. Damages reflect the turmoil suffered from your loved one's passing.
How Do I File a Wrongful Death Claim in Delaware?
To file a wrongful death claim, you will need an experienced team of attorneys who understand Delaware's laws, such as the lawyers at Morris James. Before we file your suit, we will speak to you about the circumstances surrounding your loved one's death to get a clearer picture of what happened. We will need documentation, such as:
- Accident reports, if available.
- Medical records.
- Any correspondence with insurance companies.
It may be painful to discuss the circumstances of a loved one's death. You may want to take notes that you can share with our lawyers. We will need to know everything we can about the deceased and the circumstances of their accident. While we recognize that this is not easy, it will help us better understand the cause of death and improve your chances of recovering damages.
What is the Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case?
You must file a wrongful death lawsuit in Delaware within two years of your loved one's death. If you do not file your claim in that time, the court will most likely reject it. Under the Delaware wrongful death statute, you can still file a civil action in the case even if criminal charges are pending. If you have any confusion over when you can file a case in Delaware or if you are eligible to bring a wrongful death suit, speak to an attorney.
How Long Does A Wrongful Death Claim Take?
The wrongful death attorneys at Morris James are dedicated to fighting to protect the rights and the livelihood of every client. While our goal is to resolve every wrongful death case as quickly as possible and obtain the maximum amount of compensation, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen.
While some straightforward cases can be settled in a matter of months, many cases require a longer time commitment. Typically, these cases involve negotiations with large insurance companies. Our wrongful death lawyers are committed to taking the time and effort necessary for a successful negotiation. However, some cases cannot be settled and must go to trial, an event that does take additional time and preparation.
What Kind of Compensation Can I Expect From a Wrongful Death Claim?
Settlement amounts vary from case to case. An award can be affected by income level, lifestyle, amount of available insurance, the circumstances of the death, and many other related factors. When you call our office, our experienced wrongful death lawyers can evaluate your case and help you determine how best to move forward.