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.
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.
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:
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.
For a wrongful death claim to prevail in Louisiana, the following factors must be proven by the survivor on their 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.
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:
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 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.