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Wrongful Death Lawyers
Understanding Wrongful Death Laws
Washington, DC, Virginia, & Maryland
Losing a loved one is always painful, and knowing that death could have been prevented makes it even more heart wrenching. Naturally, wrongful death cases are very emotionally charged. It helps if you know going in what a wrongful death lawsuit is, and what it is not.
A wrongful death lawsuit is not a criminal case. It is a civil lawsuit, which is very different from a criminal case. The defendant does not face prison or jail time. While you may receive punitive damages, the focus is on compensating loved ones, rather than punishing the responsible party. The good side to this is that in a civil case you are not held to the same rigid standards of proof that it takes to prove guilt in a criminal trial.
How a wrongful death suit can help
We understand that no amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one, and a wrongful death claim does not try to do that. But it can offer you some comforting and helpful things. Although each situation is different, in most cases surviving loved ones may recover amounts to cover:
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of the loved one's anticipated future earnings
- Loss of benefits if the loved one had provided medical, pension, dental, or other benefits
- Loss of services the loved one had provided, such as childcare, housekeeping, etc.
In addition, the jury will study every aspect of the situation and put a value on intangible things such as:
- Loss of companionship
- Mental anguish and suffering
- General damages
In some cases, a jury or judge might want to add punitive damages as well, to try and deter people in the future from committing the same grievous mistakes.
Your relationship to the lost loved one
The compensation to which you are entitled depends largely on your relationship to the lost person, and on both their previous role in your life, and what their future role would have been.
For instance, when a minor child loses a parent he or she may be entitled to compensation for losses including:
- Financial support
- Parental care
- Benefits such as medical insurance
When the adult child of a senior citizen loses a parent, he or she may still be entitled to compensation, but since the child is no longer dependent on the parent for financial support or the extensive guidance given to a minor child, the compensation may be far less substantial.
Spouses are entitled to compensation for wrongful death. If the deceased spouse was the primary breadwinner, loss of income and predicted future income will be an important part of calculating damages. However, if the deceased spouse did not work the services that spouse provided, such as child care and running the home, still have a monetary value. Of course, loss of companionship and other noneconomic damages apply in both cases.
Parents of minor and adult children may also recover damages for the wrongful death of a child.
As mentioned above, wrongful death is a civil matter, not a criminal matter. This means that while it may be no different to you personally, legally wrongful death is not the same as homicide. It is important to make this distinction because it is common knowledge that there is no statute of limitations for homicide. Unfortunately, there are strict time limits for taking action in a wrongful death lawsuit, so you must act quickly.
If a loved one in your family has died as a result of what you believe is a wrongful death in Maryland, Washington DC, or Virginia, please contact the personal injury law offices of Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. Our wrongful death lawyers will examine your case and consult with you to determine what damages you may be entitled to recover. The consultation is free of charge.