Tragically, in these types of claims, a lot of loss has occurred. Not only have survivors suffered the loss of their loved one, but they've also likely suffered other losses, such as the loss of income, companionship, society, comfort, advice, love, care, protection, etc. Combined with added expenses resulting from the death (medical bills, funeral costs, etc), survivors may not know where to turn for help. If you or a loved one are suffering from similar circumstances, you may have legal options to help you get on the road to financial and potentially emotional healing. Wrongful death claims exist to support surviving loved ones after a death caused by negligence or intentional misconduct. While a wrongful death claim won't bring your beloved family member back, it will provide you with the financial compensation you need to pay your family's expenses and the opportunity to properly grieve your loved one.
In this article, we'll discuss the elements needed to file a wrongful death claim and other important points of your potential claim. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one, and you're unsure where to turn, give our trusted and experienced wrongful death lawyer at Andrus Law Firm a call today at 801-535-4645. Alternatively, you can fill out our convenient and confidential online form. We will review the facts of your case and discuss any legal options that may be available to you.
Elements of Wrongful Death Claims
To file a wrongful death lawsuit, certain elements must be present in your case:
- The death of the deceased must have been caused by the negligence or intentional misconduct of another person
- Financial injuries must be present for the surviving loved ones as a result of the action that led to the death of the deceased
- A personal representative must be appointed to represent the deceased family member's estate
Note that you must also file a wrongful death claim within a specific time period known as the statute of limitations. In Utah, the claim must be filed within two years of the deceased person's death date. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when the cause of death was unknown until after the two-year timeline. Additionally, certain cases may have other requirements and shorter timelines, such as a claim against a government agency or in medical malpractice cases. A wrongful death lawyer will ensure you file everything correctly and on time.
Meeting the Burden of Proof
Before damages can be awarded to the surviving loved one, certain elements (discussed above) must be proven in a wrongful death lawsuit. Meeting the burden of proof in these cases may be complex, involving a lot of evidence collection, potentially bringing in expert witnesses, investigating accident forensics, and more to prove that each necessary element existed. While proving these elements may be a complex process, civil suits, like wrongful death suits, are generally easier to prove than criminal cases. The jury will be directed to consider the evidence presented and determine whether it is “more likely than not” that the defendant's actions resulted in the death of the deceased. In a criminal case, the standard burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Note that wrongful death suits can be brought forth independent of ongoing criminal cases.
The “Heirs” Are Permitted to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah
Pursuant to Utah law, wrongful death claims can be filed by the deceased person's “heirs” or personal representatives. Utah Code § 78B-3-105. Utah classifies the following people as “heirs” to a deceased person:
- A surviving spouse
- Surviving child(ren), including adopted children
- Surviving parents, including adoptive parents
- Surviving stepchildren, if they are under the age of 18 at the time of the death and financially dependent on the deceased
- If none of the above heirs survive, a blood relative is permitted to file a wrongful death claim
Damages in Wrongful Death Claims
There are several types of damages that may exist in a wrongful death case. Some damages are completely monetary (economic damages), and some damages are non-monetary (non-economic damages). Sometimes punitive damages may be ordered by the court, too. Punitive damages are meant to dissuade conduct that is particularly harmful to society by ordering the defendant to pay additional damages as a form of punishment for his or her actions.
Damages in a wrongful death case may include the following:
- Loss of love, companionship, society, comfort, pleasure, advice, care, protection, affection, past and future
- Loss of financial support, past and future
- Loss or reduction of inheritance
- Pain and suffering which the deceased loved one experienced at the time of injury and death
- Funeral and burial expenses and costs
- Medical bills, expenses, and costs associated with the loved one's sustained injuries
- Loss of wages, which may include the calculated future income and benefits the loved one would have received had he/she survived
- Assistance and benefit that would likely have been received had he/she lived
- And more
Causes of Wrongful Death
We've discussed that the causes of someone's wrongful death must be the result of someone's negligent or intentional actions. These actions may come in different forms. Some common types of wrongful death cases include:
- Vehicle Accidents
- Medical Malpractice
- Defective Products
- Construction Accidents
- Workplace Accidents
- Negligent or Inadequate Security
- Nursing Home Abuse
- Assault and Battery
Read our frequently asked questions blog about wrongful death for more information.
Get Help from Andrus Law Firm
If you are seeking legal justice, we're here to fight for you. Legal justice, unfortunately, won't change the course of events that brought you here, but it can provide the financial compensation you need, as well as hold defendants accountable for their negligent or intentional actions. You can call our Salt Lake City wrongful death lawyer at 801-535-4645 to set up an initial consultation, or fill out our confidential online form to request that we reach back out to you. It's more than “just another case” to us. For 37 years, we've worked diligently to bring justice to families and tell their stories. We'll do the same for you – let us help you begin to heal.