Accidental and preventable injuries kill thousands of Americans every year. In 2017, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control study found that 146,571 people passed away from unintentional injuries. Some die at the hands of negligent healthcare workers. Reckless, distracted drivers kill thousands more. Others die due to intentional acts. Several organizations found:
- Accidental falls killed 33,381 people.
- There were 37,757 Americans who died in motor vehicle crashes.
- Unintentional poisonings killed 47,478 people.
- Johns Hopkins University found more than 250,000 people died of medical errors.
- The FBI found there were 17,250 homicide victims in the US in 2017.
When a person dies in a preventable accident, their loss devastates relatives who must rebuild their shattered lives. The deceased victim can no longer provide love and companionship to their surviving spouse and children. Their unexpected absence leaves their families with a huge financial burden. Their relatives must pay huge medical bills, funeral costs, and living expenses.
Most survivors feel angry, knowing the victim’s tragic death was preventable.
The Robert Pahlke Law Group knows no amount of money can replace what you’ve lost, but you deserve justice—and the law is designed to help right these wrongs. You have the right to demand compensation. We’ll review your case to see if we can help you recover damages. Our Nebraska wrongful death lawyers will work hard to get a settlement or verdict.
Contact us for a free consultation or call (308) 633-4444.
Our Law Firm Gets Results in Wrongful Death Cases
The Robert Pahlke Law Group is a veteran, litigation-focused firm based in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Our attorneys have 85 years of combined experience and a proven record of success. We’ve received several accolades for our work with clients. Our firm received Martindale Hubbell’s highest AV rating for 2011 and 2012.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims are civil lawsuits. An estate (the surviving family members) files these claims when a person dies because of the legal fault of the defendant. The victim’s death resulted from the liable party’s negligent or intentional acts. These legal claims involve different situations including medical malpractice, product liability, and other issues.
Wrongful death suits are a recent development. English Common law brought to the United States forbade wrongful death lawsuits. State and federal courts created statutes for these claims during the last century. The victim’s family can sue for economic damages including lost income. They can also sue for the pain their relative suffered before he or she died.
Family members and estates can file claims against:
- Individual people
- Companies, and
- Governmental agencies.
Parties Who Can File Wrongful Death Claims
A representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim. The survivors must have a prior relationship to the victim before they sue for damages. Typical parties in wrongful death suits include:
- Parents – Only the guardians of minor children can file a wrongful death suit. Parents can also recover damages for the emotional trauma and the loss of the relationship with their children.
- Children – Parents can file a suit on behalf of their minor children. Adult children don’t qualify. The parents can also sue for defendants for the loss of their child’s comfort and support.
- Spouses – The surviving husband or wife can sue for loss of companionship and other damages arising from the victim’s death.
What Cases Qualify as Wrongful Death Claims
In a wrongful death case, the victim would have qualified for a personal injury claim, had he or she lived. These are many examples of wrongful death cases. Here are three prevalent examples.
- Victims killed due to intentional acts. – These cases involve murder victims. The most famous wrongful death suit involved O.J. Simpson. Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman’s families filed a wrongful death claim against him and won.
- Automobile or airplane accidents caused by negligence. – Families can file wrongful death claims when a victim dies due to the reckless acts of another driver.
- Deaths caused by medical malpractice. – Medical malpractice and errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States. In wrongful death situations, a healthcare professional’s negligent actions led to the death of a patient. For example, a doctor may fail to diagnose a manageable, but life-threatening condition. Other negligent physicians may commit reckless acts or provide substandard care. The surviving family members can file wrongful death claims against these professionals.
- Work-related exposure to hazardous substances or conditions – An employee can die from injuries related to occupational hazards. These include unsafe working conditions or exposure to poisonous chemicals.
Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases
Damages in wrongful death cases differ from standard negligence cases. Plaintiffs must prove the negligent actions of another person caused their relative’s death. Additionally, they must meet the same burden of proof required in a regular negligence lawsuit.
- A victim dies from injuries. A decedent is a person that could have sued for personal injury damages if he or she lived.
- The defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. A plaintiff must prove the defendant owed a duty of care to the victim. For example, most physicians owe their patients a duty of care, since they’re hired to oversee their medical care. Judges, not juries, decide whether the defendant owed a duty of due care to the decedent.
- There was a breach of duty. The plaintiff must prove the defendant breached their duty to the victim. The duty breach should be the proximate cause of the victim’s death. For example, a decedent’s family can sue a nursing home that failed to give nutrition, hydration, and medical care to a patient before they died. These treatments are ones that a normal doctor would give under similar circumstances.
- The defendant’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries. The estate must prove their relative’s death resulted from the careless, reckless, or negligent acts of the defendant. This is the same burden of proof that a victim must have met, had he or she lived.
- Significant damages resulted from the injuries. The victim’s death must cause quantifiable damages. These include hospitalizations, loss of income, and other expenses.
Courts can award punitive damages when the victim’s death arose from egregious circumstances.
Damages in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death cases involve two categories of damages. The law separates them into two time periods.
- Pre-death pain and suffering (survival claims): The first class allows the recovery of damages experienced by the deceased person. The law bases this period on the moment the negligent act occurred until the victim’s death.
For example, a truck accident could cover the time from the actual accident until the decedent died from their injuries. Their suffering may last hours or weeks after the incident. The estate can also claim medical expenses, mental anguish, pain and suffering, funeral costs, and the victim’s lost wages.
- Damages suffered by the family. The second class involves the losses experienced by the next of kin after their relative dies. These damages address financial issues that relatives suffered following the victim’s death. The money helps replace lost and future income the decedent would have earned until their expected retirement.
- The loss of companionship (consortium). Surviving relatives can collect non-economic damages if they’re deprived of the decedent’s companionship, particularly spouses. The law calls this “loss of consortium.”
Other damages the victim’s families may claim are:
- The loss of the decedent’s expected income.
- The value of services that the deceased would have provided.
- Medical costs that the victim incurred because of the injury before death.
- The loss of inheritance as the result of death.
- Mental anguish caused by the victim’s passing.
- Emotional pain.
Hire the Robert Pahlke Law Group
You don’t have to fight for justice alone. The Robert Pahlke Law Group has a team of Nebraska wrongful death lawyers that can help you get justice. Schedule a free consultation with our legal team today: we’ll check the facts, and can help you decide if you have a claim. We also handle cases on a contingency basis: you’ll pay nothing upfront to hire an attorney, and our firm collects our fees from any settlement or judgment you receive.
Work With Experienced Nebraska Wrongful Death Attorneys
Have you lost a loved one because of another person’s negligent act? You need a good legal team that can litigate your case. Hire the Robert Pahlke Law Group. Contact us today or call (308) 633-4444.