The grief and sadness that accompany the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. When that death is sudden, unexpected, and comes as the result of another person or entity’s negligence, the emotional toll on family members is even more intense. Families may have many questions. They may want to pursue justice for their loved one and protect those who relied on the deceased. They may not even fully understand their rights as surviving family members.
The experienced wrongful death lawyers at the Morris James Personal Injury Group understand what a confusing and difficult time this can be, and we are dedicated to protecting the rights of surviving family members. With over 150 years of combined experience, our personal injury lawyers have the knowledge, skills and drive to help secure justice for your loved one and obtain the vital compensation your family deserves.
If your loved one has died because of another person’s negligence in Delaware, you may be entitled to make a claim. Chat live with a member of our legal team today to find the answers you need and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
In Delaware, a wrongful death occurs when a wrongful act by one person causes the death of another person, for which that person could pursue a personal injury case had his death not occurred. Essentially, it is a personal injury case brought by the surviving family members of the deceased.
A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil matter instigated by private parties. In Delaware, it is permissible to file a wrongful death suit in addition to criminal charges filed by the state against the person responsible. However, criminal charges need not be pursued to mount a successful wrongful death case.
Determining Liability in Delaware
In wrongful death cases, it must be demonstrated that the defendant is liable for the accident or circumstance that led to the death. Commonly, it must be shown that the responsible party was negligent in some way and that negligence eventually led to the death. Though it can be tricky to determine liability in some cases, a skilled attorney can help find and preserve evidence, talk to expert witnesses, and more.
Some of the more common wrongful death cases arise from:
- Car Accidents. All drivers have a duty to be responsible and safe on the road. When drivers get behind the wheel after drinking, taking drugs, or missing sleep, they are putting everyone at risk and can be held accountable. If your wrongful death claim was the fault of a Wilmington, Delaware Car Accident, Morris James Personal Injury Group can help.
- Truck accidents. Truck accidents can occur because of the negligence of the truck's owner or operator, who may have failed to provide proper vehicle maintenance or allowed fatigued truckers to spend too much time behind the wheel. You might have a case if your wrongful death was the result of the truck owner or operator's negligence.
- Motorcycle accidents. Delaware law also holds motorcyclists responsible for actions that may lead to wrongful deaths. If the motorcyclist was weaving through traffic or speeding, this could prove negligence in your loved one's death.
- Medical malpractice. Physicians or health care workers showing negligence can harm the patient and create conditions that lead to their death. You can pursue a wrongful death claim if you believe the health care team's misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, mistreatment, or other incompetence caused a loved one's passing.
- Defective products. Malfunctioning products can lead to wrongful death, such as brakes that don't work in a car or a medical device, such as a defibrillator, that won't turn on. If a product that didn't work correctly results in your loved one's death, you can seek damages through a lawsuit.
- Premises Liability. When a property owner fails to maintain a safe environment for others, he or she can be held responsible. Some common premises liability issues include slip and fall accidents, dog bites, swimming pool accidents, and amusement park or playground accidents.
- Intentional killing. When one person intentionally causes the death of another, the surviving family can pursue civil charges.
- Work injuries. Typically, deaths related to the workplace are addressed through the workers’ compensation system. In some cases, however, the law does permit a claim to be pursued against a third party other than the employer who may be responsible for the death.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Delaware?
In Delaware, the purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to benefit the spouse, children, parents, or siblings of the deceased person. The law is flexible when it comes to defining the ties between loved ones, and it is inclusive of many types of family relationships, but not all relationships recognize a legal right in every death.
Parents do not have to be married. Any child born of the deceased would also be entitled to make a claim, regardless of whether the deceased was married to the other parent or not. In some unique instances, the courts will allow someone other than these people to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.
The law does limit the time in which a wrongful death claim can be filed. In Delaware, family members have two years from the date of the death to file a lawsuit. The courts strictly adhere to the statute of limitations, so it is important for surviving family members to get started on a claim early.
Additionally, if your loved one died out of the State of Delaware, surviving family members may still be entitled to make a claim. The specifics of the situation would dictate which state would be the most appropriate in which to file the lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Delaware?
If no parents, children, spouse, or siblings are available or want to file a wrongful death suit, then others related to the deceased through blood or marriage can make a claim. However, if you cannot claim a blood relationship with the deceased, you may not be able to make your case. For instance, if you were in a relationship with them but did not have children and never got married, you may have a difficult time proving your case in court.
If you are unsure if you have a right to make a claim, or if there is even a claim to be made at all, contact the knowledgeable Delaware wrongful death lawyers at the Morris James Personal Injury Group. Chat live with a member of our team to learn more about your rights and schedule a free case evaluation today.
Types of Compensation Recovered in a Delaware Wrongful Death Claim
Though it can be difficult to think about directly after the death of a loved one, there are many financial concerns to consider. This is especially true if the deceased earned vital income or provided important household services, such as childcare. In Delaware, family members can recover compensation to help ensure a secure financial future.
As they deal with their grief and attempt to move forward with their lives, they shouldn’t have to worry about how to pay their bills or how they will take care of the children. Our Delaware wrongful death lawyers can help family members obtain compensation for:
- Funeral expenses (up to a certain amount): You can be repaid for what you paid to bury your family member. You may also seek payment for medical expenses related to the wrongful death.
- Lost income and benefits: The court can calculate how much your loved one would have made had they continued to work.
- Lost contributions of child or spousal support: You can recover money your loved one would have paid to support you or your children if you did not work or had a monetary agreement in place.
- Lost household services: You can be compensated for the everyday labor your loved one would have performed.
- Mental anguish: Dealing with an unexpected death can cause emotional pain and other mental health conditions. Damages reflect the turmoil suffered from your loved one's passing.
How to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Delaware
After a loved one's death, you may feel overwhelmed and depressed. These are natural and reasonable feelings. You may also want someone to take responsibility for this tragedy. Filing a wrongful death claim may not provide what you want most — your loved one back — but it will help ensure that no one else experiences the pain you feel. Filing a wrongful death claim is a proactive way to deal with your feelings of anger and sadness.
To file a wrongful death claim, you will need an experienced team of attorneys who understand Delaware's laws, such as the lawyers at Morris James Personal Injury Group. Before we file your suit, we will speak to you about the circumstances surrounding your loved one's death to get a clearer picture of what happened. We will need documentation, such as:
- Accident reports, if available.
- Medical records.
- Any correspondence with insurance companies.
It may be painful to discuss the circumstances of a loved one's death. You may want to take notes that you can share with our lawyers. We will need to know everything we can about the deceased and the circumstances of their accident. While we recognize that this is not easy, it will help us better understand the cause of death and improve your chances of recovering damages.
Statute of Limitations in a Wrongful Death Case
You must file a wrongful death lawsuit in Delaware within two years of your loved one's death. If you do not file your claim in that time, the court will most likely reject it. Under the Delaware wrongful death statute, you can still file a civil action in the case even if criminal charges are pending. If you have any confusion over when you can file a case in Delaware or if you are eligible to bring a wrongful death suit, speak to an attorney.
What Can I Expect From a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Many of our clients have two important questions when approaching a wrongful death case: how long will the case take, and what kind of compensation can we expect? Every case is unique, and no two situations will have the exact same outcome.
The wrongful death attorneys at Morris James Personal Injury Group are dedicated to fighting to protect the rights and the livelihood of every client. While our goal is to resolve every wrongful death case as quickly as possible and obtain the maximum amount of compensation, it is impossible to predict exactly what will happen.
While some straightforward cases can be settled in a matter of months, many cases require a longer time commitment. Typically, these cases involve negotiations with large insurance companies. These companies are out to protect their own interests, while we fight for our clients. Our wrongful death lawyers are committed to taking the time and effort necessary for a successful negotiation. However, some cases cannot be settled and must go to trial, an event that does take additional time and preparation.
Regardless of the time frame, our team will fight to obtain the compensation your family deserves. Settlement amounts vary from case to case. An award can be affected by income level, lifestyle, amount of available insurance, the circumstances of the death, and many other related factors. When you call our office, our experienced wrongful death lawyers can evaluate your case and help you determine how best to move forward.
At the Morris James Personal Injury Group, we understand how crushing it can be when a loved one dies because of someone else’s carelessness. We know the difficulties families can face—whether they are emotional or financial—and we strive to help ease some of those worries by fighting for fair compensation.
If your loved one died in an accident or as a result of a person or business’ negligence, we want to help. Fill out our online contact form today to find answers to your questions and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation in one of our many convenient Delaware locations.
Testimonials of Morris James Personal Injury Group in Wilmington, Delaware
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Keith Donovan, Reneta Green-Streett and their staff did a good job. They were attentive to my needs, returned my calls and emails, and kept me informed about the progress of my case. They explained the legal issues clearly so that I could make my decisions. I feel they did a wonderful job!
I have recommended the Morris James Personal Injury Group to others, and will continue to do so.