When a wrongful death attorney sits down with a client to examine whether or not there might be grounds for pursuing a civil claim, there are several issues that come into play. If you're wondering whether you might have a case, here's what you need to keep in mind.
A Close Relationship with the Deceased
In order to have the legal standing required to seek compensation, the plaintiff in a wrongful death case has to have a very close relationship with whoever died. Being married is one of the most common forms of standing, and minor dependent children will also have standing. Parents of minor dependents who died will also typically have standing.
Once you move beyond the immediate family circle, the odds of pursuing a case successfully drop dramatically. For example, adult children of the deceased most likely will not have standing. A sibling probably won't, either, unless there's an established legal dependent or guardianship relationship, such as being in loco parentis.
The job of a wrongful death lawyer is fundamentally to understand a specialized version of personal injury law. That means that the standards are generally the same, with the duty of care being very important. This is when a person or an entity has a responsibility to take care to prevent others from coming to harm.
For example, a zoo has a responsibility to ensure that its patrons don't accidentally fall into exhibits. This means installing sufficient fencing and other barriers to preclude falls from happening. If an adult visitor decides to climb up on the barriers and falls in, though, the zoo isn't responsible for that because a reasonable person wouldn't do such a thing. Notably, it's important for organizations to protect against the possibility that children fail to recognize and observe safety precautions too.
The proximate cause, that is to say the most immediate thing that led to an incident, is a major bone of contention in wrongful death suits. If a vehicle is hit by a semi, for example, there's a question of what caused the accident. During the discovery process, it might be discovered that the truck was poorly maintained, and that could be considered a proximate cause if the semi failed to brake in a timely manner. On the flip side of the argument, though, it's possible that heavy rain or ice could have made road conditions unpredictable.
My husband does much of our auto repair work himself. We do all that we can to save a dollar when we can, and doing the repair work saves us a small fortune each year. Unfortunately, all of the money that we have saved over the past 15 years has gone to pay the medical bills that we have accumulated during the last several months after a floor jack failed and dropped our car on top of my husband. A few days after the incident, I contacted an injury attorney. I have created a blog to help others that have been injured due to faulty products find some sort of resolution.