Deaths caused by another person or entity's negligence should be rare. Unfortunately, research shows that deadly negligence-related accidents happen far more often than most people know. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unintentional accidents and injuries send approximately 30.8 million people to the emergency room—and result in nearly 150,000 deaths—each year.
Fatal negligence-related accidents occur on a daily basis all across the country—and, sadly, Delaware is no exception. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) lists Accidents as the fourth leading cause of death in the state, with unintentional accidents and injuries killing more than 500 Delawareans in 2016 alone.
If someone you love was killed in a negligence-related accident that wasn't their fault, your family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim. Read on to learn more about wrongful death cases, and how to seek justice for a lost loved one.
Key Elements in a Wrongful Death Case
After losing a loved one, it's important to understand what differentiates a fatal accident from an actionable wrongful death. Successful wrongful death cases contain the following elements:
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of care, meaning they were required to take reasonable steps to avoid causing injuries.
- The defendant breached the duty of care by failing to take the appropriate precautions.
- The defendant's negligent actions resulted in the victim's death.
- The wrongful death claimants sustained losses as a result.
Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths
Under the right—or wrong—circumstances, just about any personal injury accident can lead to wrongful death. Some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slips and falls (and other premises liability accidents)
- Workplace accidents
- Dangerous or defective products
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in Delaware
You may have already decided that taking legal action and filing a wrongful death claim is the right next step for you and your family. However, before you file the paperwork, there are a few things you should know. Delaware restricts the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit to specific family members, such as the victim's surviving spouse, children, parents, and siblings—including children born to unmarried parents, parents who weren't legally married when the victim was born, and half-siblings.
Also, when you file your claim is as important as who files it. In Delaware, eligible family members have just two years from the date of the death to file their wrongful death claim. Attempting to file a wrongful death claim after the two-year time limit has passed will result in an automatic dismissal of the case.
Potential Damages Available in Wrongful Death Cases
Wrongful death claimants can seek compensation for a wide range of economic and non-economic losses related to their loved one's untimely death, including:
- Reasonable funeral and burial or cremation expenses
- Loss of benefits (such as pension plans or medical insurance)
- Loss of income
- Loss of inheritance
- Cost of good and services the victim would have provided
- Loss of care, guidance, and protection
- Loss of love and companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Mental anguish
- And more
Depending on the circumstances that led to the wrongful death, claimants may also be eligible for punitive damages—a third type of damages that are only awarded in cases where the defendant's conduct was deemed particularly heinous.
Consult an Experienced Delaware Wrongful Death Attorney
Did you lose a loved one in a negligence-related accident that wasn't his fault? At the Morris James Personal Injury Group, we understand that this is an extremely difficult time and no amount of money can make up for your loved one's absence. However, our knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys can help you fight for the compensation you need to ensure your family is taken care of the way your loved one would have wanted. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation.