Filing a Lawsuit for Catastrophic or Accidental Death
In some sad cases, a person who has been injured will die from those injuries. When this happens, the person’s heirs can still attempt to get compensation for the costs associated with the person’s injuries. The lawsuit becomes a specific type of personal injury case known as a wrongful death claim.
Whenever someone dies because of non-natural causes, there may be grounds for a wrongful death claim. Murder is perhaps the most obvious cause of wrongful death that there is. The person responsible does not have to be found guilty of the criminal charge of murder to be guilty of the civil charge of wrongful death. This is true even in instances where the criminal courts have found the person not guilty.
In most wrongful death cases, though, the cause was accident or negligence. Many types of injuries can be the basis of this type of case. The heirs of a person killed in a car accident might sue for wrongful death, for example. The heirs of a person who died due to medical malpractice might also have the basis for a claim. Essentially, any type of injury that might result in a personal injury claim can result in a wrongful death claim, if the person injured dies.
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While wrongful death is a type of personal injury claim, the rules about filing wrongful death claims are different from those that apply to other personal injury claims. A big difference is that the statute of limitations is different for a wrongful death case than it is for a personal injury case. Let’s look at a car accident case as an example. In Utah, a person injured in a car accident can file a suit any time within four years of the accident. If the person dies in the auto accident, though, the person’s heirs will only have two years to file a claim, even though the cause of death was the auto accident.
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Another area where wrongful death claims differ is in who can be a plaintiff. Normally, the injured person is the plaintiff. Since a dead person cannot sue, the person’s heirs can do it on their behalf.
Heirs, in Utah, are immediate family members, that is, parents, spouses, children, and siblings. In the state, all heirs must work as a single plaintiff and only one case can be filed on their behalf. In other words, if a person died and his or her mother filed a suit for wrongful death, the person’s spouse could not also file a wrongful death suit for him or her. The state also requires that all heirs share in any judgment issued on behalf of the deceased. For example, if the heirs received a judgment of $200,000 and there were four of them, each of them is entitled to $50,000.