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Understanding the basics of a wrongful death action

The loss of a loved one is an event that never gets easier to process. No matter your age or the age of your loved one, this is a difficult time that can exude many emotions. This event can be further challenging if a loved ones was suddenly killed by the negligence of another. It can be difficult to accept that such carelessness could suddenly alter your life; however, surviving family members should understand that they have rights afforded to them following the wrongful death of a loved one.

In some cases, a serious incident does not result in a fatality right away. A victim of an accident, such as an automobile crash, might suffer severe injuries, requiring them to undergo intense medical treatment. In this matter, the victim may have initiated a personal injury action. However, if the victim does not survive their injuries, a family member could recover damages through a wrongful death suit.

Even if your family is not suffering a loss of income because the deceased had never held a job, losses and damages can still exist. Thus, a wrongful death action could focus on other losses, such as pecuniary losses, which refers to a husband or wife that contributes services, guidance and nurturing for the family. Additionally, a wrongful death action could recover damages for pain and suffering. Prior to the decedent's death, he or she may have suffered a tremendous amount of pain as a result of the negligent act that resulted in his or her death.

Finally, it is important for loved ones to note that civil actions differ from criminal actions. If the state brings a criminal action against the negligent party in the matter, this does not mean that the family will receive any monetary damages from this case. A criminal case seeks to punish a wrongdoer for their actions. On the other hand, a civil action is based on the legal duties of a party and the damages arising from their breach of that duty.

No matter the cause of the accident or age of the victim, surviving family members should understand that it is possible to recover damage for the wrongful death of a loved one. Because it is an emotional and difficult time, loved ones should also note that these actions are time barred. This means that it is imperative that a wrongful death suit is filed as soon as possible so they can avoid missing their chance to assert their rights.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Wrongful Death FAQ," accessed August 20, 2017

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