Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dealing With Wrongful Deaths

I have been asked by a few parents, who have seen information on the internet, to comment on wrongful deaths. Below is some information related to this topic. I would encourage anyone involved with this or who knows someone who is, to check with a lawyer before pursuing anything legally. Each state has different interpretations of the laws.

A wrongful death refers to a lawsuit that claims a victim was killed due to an individual, company or entity’s misdeed and carelessness. The victim’s survivors are entitled to monetary damages as a result of improper conduct or negligence. A wrongful death claim could result from one of the following: auto, motorcycle, airplane, helicopter or boating accident; a medical malpractice resulting in decedent’s death; criminal behavior, occupational exposure to hazardous conditions or substances; or a death caused by negligence during a supervised activity.

Ron Goldman’s suit of O.J. Simpson for the death of his son is an example of this. Although he won the case, he has never seen one penny of the compensation he asked for.

I know of one mother whose son was killed while in military training, not in enemy combat. The irony was that this boy was willing to give his life for his country by being in the military in combat, but this is not what happened. According to his parents, the death was unnecessary and happened through carelessness. Without going into detail, the parents chose to pursue legal means due to their son’s death. Not all those involved choose this route, but these parents did as did Ron Goldman.

Dealing with a tragic or sudden death is very difficult. You may not even be able to deal with it right away, but it is best if evidence can be gathered in a reasonable time if the case is going to be pursued. A skilled lawyer can help collect evidence, give legal tips or advice, complete all necessary legal documents and built a case against the opposing party. Those involved should clarify the lawyer’s payment system and how and when updates will be given on the progress of the case.

Parents and surviving family members such as a wife or children may be entitled to receive compensation from an insurance company or from those held accountable for the death. Even though no amount of money will compensate for the loss, receiving compensation may somehow console the grief felt.

Medical, hospital, funeral expenses and pain and suffering are the most common areas that you see compensation given. Different states have different statutes and laws that must be followed and that would have to be checked out carefully.

As the military parents said, they would have preferred not to have to deal with it at all, but in their son’s memory, they felt they had to do something. In their grief they also sought out TAPS, a grief support group for those who have been affected by the death of a loved one in the military. TAPS helped them deal with their loss emotionally, they told me. “We couldn’t have made it through without them,” they said. Seeking professional help for the emotional aspect is as important as seeking legal help.

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