1If you are reeling in the aftermath of the recent death of a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit is certainly the last thing on your mind. You’re grieving and emotional and too overwhelmed to introduce even more stress into your life. At Hardy, Wolf & Downing, we offer compassionate and patient counsel to loved ones in the terrible throes of grief. We understand that a successful wrongful death action can never make you truly whole. However, if your family member was killed at the hands of a negligent and careless individual or corporation, you have rights as a surviving immediate family member to make that party pay – and the Maine personal injury lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing can help you get through it.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
A wrongful death can occur any number of way and is always the result of negligent or reckless behavior. A wrongful death action is essentially a personal injury claim where the injury is death and damages go to the deceased person’s family. Historically, these actions were created in order to avoid the double-tragedy of allowing a responsible party to escape liability merely due to the fact the victim had died.
The most common causes of wrongful death include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Car, motorcycle or bicycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Botched surgeries
- Defective and dangerous consumer products
- Injuries during recreational activities (e.g., amusement parks, swimming)
- Fires, explosions or death by unsafe equipment
Meeting with a Maine Wrongful Death Attorney: the First Steps
When you and your family are ready to take the first step toward holding the responsible party liable, you will meet with us to discuss the facts of the case, timeline, and other pertinent information relevant to filing your claim.
At the initial meeting, your attorney will determine whether the case likely meets proper criteria:
- Evidence to suggest the defendant breached a duty of care to the decedent
- The breach of duty directly caused the decedent’s injuries and subsequent death
- The incident is not time-barred by the two-year statute of limitations
Once your attorney concludes your case possesses a likelihood of success, the case will begin with the filing of a complaint containing factual allegations giving rise to a claim. Under Maine law, all wrongful death actions must be filed in the name of the personal representative of the deceased party, sometimes known as the executor or administrator of the estate.
Compensation Provided Under Maine Wrongful Death Laws
The Maine Revised Statutes are highly specific as to the individuals eligible for compensation pursuant to a successful wrongful death lawsuit. The statute begins by stating that the amount recovered is for the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse if there are no surviving minor children. If there is no surviving spouse but the decedent had minor children, compensation is to be held entirely for the benefit of those children. If the decedent has a surviving spouse and minor children, the spouse is to receive one-half of the compensation and the children receive the other half, divided equally amongst each child.
If the decedent did not have a surviving spouse or children at the time of death, compensation is awarded according to kinship laws provided in Maine’s intestacy statute. According to those laws, the next eligible recipient after spouse and children is the decedent’s parents – divided equally. From there, compensation is available for the decedent’s next of kin in order of kinship, including siblings, cousins and so on.
As for the type of damages allowed, the Maine statutes cover a broad range of pecuniary loss. Compensation in wrongful death must include all damages that will reimburse the decedent’s estate for the reasonable expenses of medical, surgical and hospital care at the time of death, including funeral expenses.
A jury may award damages up to $500,000 as compensation for the loss of comfort and companionship following the death of the decedent, including damages for emotional distress. In addition, if the jury finds the defendant acted intentionally or with malice in causing the death (as opposed to accidentally or recklessly), it may compensate the family an additional $250,000 in punitive damages.
How Hardy, Wolf & Downing Can Help
No family should file a wrongful death lawsuit without representation. The attorneys of Hardy, Wolf & Downing can meet with you and loved ones, discuss the best course of action moving forward, and help clear your path toward a brighter future.
For more information about filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Portland, Lewiston, Bangor, or any southern Maine locality please call to speak with our preeminent Maine wrongful death lawyers first. Call Hardy, Wolf & Downing at 1-800-INJURED today.
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