Nothing may be more devastating than suddenly and unexpectedly losing a beloved family member because someone else was reckless or negligent. If your family loses a loved one in this way in Louisiana, arrange as soon as you can to speak with a Metairie wrongful death attorney.

Fatal traffic accidents occur far too often in this state. Medical malpractice is a leading cause of death. Wrongful deaths happen in all kinds of accident scenarios and also happen because of intentional assaults and other crimes. How is “wrongful death” defined by Louisiana law?

If a person dies, for example, because another motorist or a healthcare provider was negligent, what legal recourse do surviving relatives have? Keep reading, and these questions will be answered in this brief discussion of wrongful death and the law in Louisiana.

How Is “Wrongful Death” Defined?

Louisiana law states that wrongful deaths happen when “a person dies due to the fault of another.” A person could be held accountable for a wrongful death, but so could a legal entity such as a corporation. Most (but by no means all) wrongful deaths happen for these reasons:

  1. negligent driving leading to a fatal traffic accident
  2. medical negligence and malpractice
  3. intentional criminal behavior

Who May Bring a Claim for Wrongful Death?

After losing an immediate family member to negligence or criminal behavior, in order to recover compensation, the surviving family members must bring a wrongful death claim. No amount of money, of course, can compensate for the sudden, tragic loss of a loved one.

Still, a claim for wrongful death may help the decedent’s family avoid a financial hardship after the sudden loss of a family member. Who may pursue a claim for wrongful death in Louisiana?

  1. If the decedent had a wife and/or children, the children and the spouse, or either the spouse or the children, may file a claim.
  2. If the decedent had no spouse or children, the surviving parents or parent may file a claim.
  3. If the decedent had no spouse, children, or living parents, the decedent’s siblings may file a claim.
  4. If the decedent had no spouse, children, or surviving parents or siblings, any surviving grandparents may file a claim.

Adopted family members have the same right to a wrongful death claim as those related by marriage or blood. However, if a parent abandoned the decedent when the decedent was a child, that parent is prohibited from seeking wrongful death damages.

What’s the Difference Between Wrongful Death and Homicide?

In a homicide trial, a conviction may mean jail or a prison term for the defendant, probation, a fine, and additional criminal penalties. However, a defendant who is held liable in civil court for someone’s wrongful death pays financial compensation directly to the decedent’s survivors.

Another distinction is the standard for judging the defendant. In a criminal court, the guilt of a defendant must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In civil wrongful death cases, you only have to prove that the defendant “more likely than not” is liable for the wrongful death.

Nevertheless, in some cases, the same death can trigger both a criminal prosecution and a wrongful death action.

When Should You Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney?

Of course, the grief may be devastating after you’ve lost a person you love, and money cannot compensate for that loss, but your family’s future is a necessary and genuine concern. Take your family’s wrongful death case to a Louisiana wrongful death lawyer as quickly as you can.

Louisiana’s statute of limitations for wrongful death claims gives surviving members of the family one year from the date of the death to bring a claim for wrongful death, but don’t wait a full year and then scramble to file a claim at the last minute.

If your loved one died in a car accident, for example, your attorney will need to examine the evidence while it’s fresh and speak to the witnesses before their memories fade, so your family needs to contact a Metairie wrongful death attorney as early as possible.

How Do Wrongful Death Claims Succeed?

Wrongful death claims are handled much like personal injury claims. The plaintiffs – the surviving family members bringing the claim – must prove these “elements” of their case in order for their claim to prevail:

  1. The party presumably at fault – the “defendant” – had a “duty of care” to the decedent.
  2. That duty was breached by the defendant’s negligent or intentional criminal behavior.
  3. The negligent or intentional behavior directly caused the wrongful death.
  4. The defendant should compensate the survivors for their losses.

What Compensation Can Survivors Recover?

The resources that may be available through a wrongful death claim can provide for families that would otherwise suffer financial hardship, and those resources can also help surviving family members to move ahead positively and constructively with their lives.

There are two types of damages in a wrongful death case: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include:

  1. burial and funeral costs
  2. final medical expenses
  3. lost benefits and earnings
  4. the value of the household services that the decedent would have provided

Noneconomic losses are losses that cannot be established with a bill or a receipt. Noneconomic damages in Louisiana wrongful death cases may compensate survivors for their grief and anguish and for their loss of guidance, companionship, and emotional support.

Generally speaking, there is no specific cap or limit on damages in Louisiana wrongful death cases, but the state’s cap on damages in medical malpractice cases ($500,000) would apply to a claim for wrongful death arising from a medical malpractice incident.

What Will Justice Cost Your Family?

If you have lost a family member because of another person’s negligence or criminal behavior, your family has the right to bring a claim for wrongful death with help from a reliable Louisiana wrongful death lawyer.

How much will justice cost? Wrongful death lawyers in Louisiana provide a no-cost, no-obligation first consultation, so it will not cost you to find out more about your family’s legal rights and how the law may apply in your own circumstances.

If you bring a claim for wrongful death, no attorney’s fee is due until your attorney recovers your compensation. By working on what is called a contingent fee basis, a wrongful death lawyer can help your family obtain the justice and the compensation you are entitled to by Louisiana law.