When you lose a loved one to a fatal accident, it’s difficult to move forward. Nonetheless, you do. You accept new responsibilities and challenges. You manage lifestyle changes and financial shortfalls. You do what you need to do to care for your family and, eventually, you adjust to your new way of life. You move forward because you must, but that’s difficult to do when you know that someone’s negligence caused your loved one’s wrongful death.
When you lose a loved one, it changes your life in ways you might never have considered. You lose that person’s love, companionship, and comfort. If your spouse suffers an untimely death, you lose a lifetime of emotional and financial support. If a negligent person, business, or corporate entity causes or contributes to your loved one’s death, you shouldn’t let it go. Wrongful death laws give you a legal right to make responsible parties pay for their negligent acts. The compassionate, experienced personal injury lawyers at Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers can help you find justice for your loved one during this difficult time.
Responsible Parties Must Pay
At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, we have provided years of compassionate legal representation for our clients and their families. By focusing on injured clients’ cases only, we’ve cultivated the legal experience and the confidence to tirelessly pursue the best possible outcomes.
Our attorneys have relied on our firm’s resources to fully develop our clients’ cases. We’ve researched each client’s wrongful death accident to reveal all viable defendants and examine all relevant laws. Our investigators have located and interviewed witnesses and conducted site investigations. We have engaged top experts to test products and reconstruct accident scenes. We have stayed abreast of the latest technology to track case information, interact with the courts, and give our clients access to the information they needed.
Our attorneys have worked closely with people affected by their loved one’s wrongful death. We’ve seen bereaved families struggle to overcome heartbreak and financial upheaval. We’ve always understood that a settlement couldn’t bring back a loved one or make a family whole again. We’ve worked to recover damages because we believed a financial recovery would give families the financial support they needed to survive.
Our Firm’s Results
At Dolman Law Group and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, we’ve recovered millions of dollars in judgments and settlements. We credit our successes to our desire to produce the most beneficial results for our injured clients. We have aggressively negotiated settlements with responsible parties and their insurance carriers, and we’ve resolved cases through mediation. When it was the right solution, we’ve presented our clients’ evidence before a judge and jury.
As every case has unique circumstances and challenges, we can’t guarantee a specific result. Nonetheless, we believe our case results demonstrate our commitment to deliver the best outcomes possible. In one wrongful death case, we recovered $1 million. Our client’s husband sustained fatal injuries when his rideshare driver crashed while racing with another vehicle. Due to jurisdictional issues, our law firm worked with another attorney to resolve the case. We partially settled the case pending additional legal action.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person sustains fatal injuries because of someone else’s negligent actions. Fatal accidents happen in public places, on the job, on the highway, or in any location where people interact. When a wrongful death occurs, the decedent’s beneficiaries have a right to recover damages. Fatal accidents occur suddenly and under both simple and complicated circumstances:
- Workplace accidents: In one recent year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics documented 5,250 fatalities on the job nationwide. Those who died worked in construction, transportation, law enforcement, and many other job specialties. Nationally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has determined that many construction site injuries occur because of the “Fatal Four.” These include “falls, struck by object, electrocutions, and caught-in/between.”
- Auto accidents: The National Highway Transportation Association’s 2017 crash statistics show that 37,133 people died on America’s roads and highways. When a negligent driver causes a vehicle death it often involves speeding, distracted driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Drownings: Over a 10 year period, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention documented an average of 3,536 drownings per year. These fatal events occur in residential and community pools, at neighbors’ and friends’ homes, in water parks, and in recreation areas. Many of the drownings involving children occurred because of inadequate safety measures.
- Falls: Falls occur on playfields, in grocery stores, restaurants, retail locations, and anywhere else people gather. They often occur when a property owner fails to remedy a hazard or safety issue on their property.
- Medical errors: Medical professionals commit errors every day. A Johns Hopkins research study determined that malpractice was the third leading cause of death in America. Malpractice deaths often go undocumented due to death certificate coding anomalies.
- Other causes: Each day people die due to incidents with defective products, fires, serious dog bites, and other causes.
Who Is Responsible for Wrongful Death Damages?
A wrongful death claim must meet the same standards of proof as any other negligence claim. To establish that a person or entity is responsible for a loved one’s death, you must prove that they failed to meet a legal duty and that their failure caused fatal injuries. Proof of negligence varies depending on the circumstances.
Workplace liability: When an employee is injured on the job, worker’s compensation benefits meet the employer’s obligation to pay regardless of negligence. Depending on the circumstances, the decedent’s survivors may file a claim against a negligent subcontractor, an employee of another company, or some other non-employee who causes a fatal injury. If defective or malfunctioning machinery or equipment causes a fatal workplace injury, the survivors may file a claim against the manufacturer, designer or distributor.
- Vehicle accident: The decedent’s family may sue a vehicle operator and owner when the driver’s negligence causes an accident that results in fatal injuries. The owner may have a negligent entrustment issue if he loaned his vehicle to a driver whom he knew had a poor driving record. If a defect or malfunction contributed to the accident, the manufacturer, maintenance company, or repair company is responsible for their actions.
- Truck accident: Truck drivers are legally responsible for their negligent actions behind the wheel. When they are operating their employer’s vehicle within the scope of permission, the employer is liable for the driver’s acts. If another company owns the vehicle, they also share liability for the damages. An employer has a separate liability exposure if they knew their employee had a bad driving history and they allowed him to drive anyway. A maintenance or repair company has a liability exposure when their improper maintenance causes an accident. The manufacturer is liable when their defective vehicle or component causes or contributes to a fatal accident.
- Premises liability: Property owners are legally responsible for vicious dogs, unsecured pools, security issues and other adverse or unsafe conditions on their property. The owner’s maintenance contractors, security service, tenants, and others share the owner’s responsibility. An owner’s liability is often contingent upon the injured person’s status on the premises.
- Product liability: A manufacturer, designer, or distributor share liability when a product defect causes fatal injuries.
- Medical negligence: Medical professionals are legally responsible for a patient’s wrongful death if their treatment “…represented a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care.”
Wrongful Death Compensation
State statutes vary in determining which damages a decedent’s survivors may recover. Survivors receive benefits based on their relationship with the decedent. Evaluation for survivor’s benefits considers a decedent’s potential future net income, the replacement value of their services, and both the decedent’s and the beneficiary’s life expectancies. For minor children, a settlement considers how long the child will remain a minor. A settlement for future losses incorporates a reduction to present-day values.
Survivor’s benefits often include:
Each survivor: Value of lost support and services from the injury date until death, future loss of support and services from the date of death
- Surviving spouse: loss of companionship, protection, and mental pain and suffering from the injury date
- Minor children: Lost parental companionship, instruction, guidance, and also mental pain and suffering from the injury date
- All children: The same damages as minor children if there is no surviving spouse
- Each parent of a deceased minor child: Mental pain and suffering from the injury date
- Each parent of a deceased adult child: Mental pain and suffering from the injury date if there is no surviving spouse
- The estate’s personal representative: Lost income and other costs designated under state statutes
How Do Responsible Parties Defend Themselves?
Negligent parties, their insurance companies, self-insured entities, and their legal representatives begin preparing their cases for defense the moment they receive a claim report. That’s particularly important when an injured person sustains catastrophic or fatal injuries and the claim has a high settlement value.
Plaintiff Background Checks
Each claim’s value is unique. As with all injuries, wrongful death settlement amounts don’t just depend on liability and injuries, they also consider the decedent’s personal life. During the initial investigative stages, defendants search for information that might ultimately affect a claim’s value. They access the decedent’s job information, work history, income, credit history, lifestyle information, and personal background. They talk to people in the decedent’s neighborhood and check out their family’s Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. They refine this information during discovery and attempt to use it while negotiating or trying a case.
Unfair Negotiation Tactics
Until a court renders a judgment, any settlement the responsible parties offer is voluntary. Defendants may negotiate and settle claims fairly without subjecting a decedent’s family to litigation costs and a lengthy negotiation, discovery, and trial. That doesn’t usually happen when a negligent party causes catastrophic or fatal injuries. Wrongful death claim values are often too high for a defendant or an insurance company to pay without legal pressure. Ultimately, unfair negotiation becomes the first step in a drive to defend themselves against high claim payouts.
Moving a Case Toward Trial
Insurance companies have deep pockets but they realize that some attorneys don’t have the resources to try a case. Discovery and trial preparation often involves depositions, expert testing and testimony, exhibit preparation, and many other costly requirements. Malpractice and product liability cases have their own unique specifications and court compliance issues. Plaintiffs sometimes choose to settle for a lower figure rather than incurring discovery and trial costs that may reduce their settlement.
Courtroom Defense Strategies
Despite clear liability, defendants sometimes exercise their legal right to fight against paying wrongful death damages. In responding to a lawsuit, they often cite traditional defenses to seek a lower judgment.
- No negligence: Defendants plead that they did nothing wrong.
- Assumption of risk: Defendants plead that a person knew and accepted the risks that caused their fatal injuries.
- Trespassing: If a property owner proves that a person was a trespasser when they sustained fatal injuries, they would owe them no duty other than to set no traps.
- No defect: If a plaintiff cannot prove that a product is defective or that it malfunctioned, the manufacturer, designer, and distributor pay nothing.
- Damages: Defendants use investigative and background information to diminish a wrongful death claim’s value. They sometimes allege that their actions didn’t cause the decedent’s fatal injuries.
Our wrongful death attorneys have used their legal expertise and experience to stand up against defendant and insurance company defense strategies. We’ve relied on our firm’s resources to support our efforts. Long before we’ve negotiated, mediated, or presented evidence in court, our attorneys have prepared our cases with the intent to produce the best outcome for our clients.
Call Us if You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney
If you lost a loved one due to someone’s negligent act, you need a legal representative who will treat you with sensitivity and empathy while acting quickly to protect your legal rights and making sure your loved one receives the justice he or she deserves.
Reach out to Dolman Law Group or Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. You can easily reach us by phone at 833-552-7274. You may also visit our Contact Page to begin a live chat or complete our contact form. We’ll arrange a free consultation to determine if we can help you.