An attorney for wrongful death lawsuits specializes in representing the interests of surviving family members or beneficiaries who have lost a loved one due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of another party. Losing a loved one is hard enough, but losing someone to a senseless, irresponsible action can lead to unfathomable grief. Maine law allows certain family members, such as spouses, children, and parents, to seek compensation for the wrongful death of their loved ones.
Wrongful death lawsuits generally involve situations like workplace accidents, car accidents, medical malpractice, and product liability, among other cases. They are typically brought against individuals, businesses, or entities responsible for the deceased person’s death and are a way to hold responsible parties accountable as well as provide compensation to the surviving family members for their loss.
Surviving family members should visit with an experienced personal injury lawyer to help them navigate the process of filing a wrongful death claim or before accepting a wrongful death settlement from an insurance company. As wrongful death and personal injury cases share similarities under the law—both involve seeking compensation for harm caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of another party—personal injury lawyers represent clients in wrongful death lawsuits. In particular, personal injury lawyers’ legal expertise is in the area of law dedicated to negligence and liability, which are fundamental to both personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Here are some key points to understand about wrongful death lawsuits in Maine and how an attorney for wrongful death can help:
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil claim brought by a representative of the deceased against a person, entity, or company whose negligence or actions caused the death of a loved one. The objective of a wrongful death lawsuit is to not only right a wrong but pursue legal action to collect damages against the negligent party or parties. Wrongful death lawsuits can be filed even if a criminal case is pursued against the same person, entity, or company. Representatives of the deceased are well-advised to consult with an attorney for wrongful death first to ensure a successful outcome for all beneficiaries.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Maine, only specific individuals can file a wrongful death lawsuit. Described as a “Personal Representative,” these typically include the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, parents, and other dependents. In some instances, the personal representative may be designated in the will of the deceased but may also be appointed by the court. The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate files the lawsuit on behalf of the estate, and any damages awarded are distributed among the estate’s beneficiaries.
Statute of Limitations
Like other states, Maine has a statute of limitations that sets a deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Claims must be filed within two years from the date of death. It’s crucial to adhere to this time limit. Failing to file within the statute of limitations can, in nearly all instances, result in the case being dismissed.
Burden of Proof
For a wrongful death claim to succeed, the personal representative, the plaintiff, must prove that the death of a loved one was caused by the wrongful or negligent actions of the party which led to his or her death, the defendant. It must be demonstrated that the defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased person, breached that duty, and that the breach was a direct cause of the death.
Damages refer to the compensation awarded to the plaintiff should they prevail in a wrongful death lawsuit. Damages may include compensation for medical expenses, lost income and support, funeral costs, loss of companionship, pain and suffering, and so forth. The specific amount of damages awarded will depend on the circumstances of the case and the evidence presented. The awarding of damages is broken down into two categories: pecuniary (money) and non-pecuniary (non-money). Non-pecuniary damages have monetary limits defined by the Wrongful Death statute, whereas pecuniary damages do not. Because the distinctions between the two categories are unclear, it is important to visit with an experienced wrongful death attorney before pursuing or accepting a wrongful death claim or settlement.
It should be noted that Maine follows a modified comparative negligence system, which means that if the deceased person was partially at fault for their own death, the damages awarded to the plaintiff can be reduced by a percentage of the fault assigned to the deceased. However, to recover any damages it must be proven that the deceased was less than 50% at fault for the accident.
The majority of wrongful death lawsuits are settled out of court. Settling the lawsuit would involve all parties reaching a negotiated agreement that compensates the personal representative and estate, i.e., surviving family members and beneficiaries, without going through a trial. However, settlements can save time and emotional stress, as with all cases involving negligence, never accept a settlement without first consulting with a wrongful death lawyer.
Let Maine’s Injury Lawyers Help Guide You
It’s important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who specializes in wrongful death cases before pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit. An experienced attorney for wrongful death will help assess the specifics of your case and help you navigate the complex legal process. The attorneys of Hardy, Wolf & Downing offer representation for you and your loved ones in your time of need. We offer free initial consultation, and you owe us no fees unless we win your case. We will fight for you to ensure you receive the compensation you and your family deserve for your loss.