If you recently and unexpectedly lost your loved one as a result of another person’s or company’s conduct, you may have just cause to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Taking legal action may not ease the pain of losing your loved one, but it can help ease the financial strain you are forced to deal with and potentially give you a sense of justice knowing that the person who caused your loved one harm has been held accountable.
Definition of Wrongful Death in Wisconsin
Not all deaths qualify for a wrongful death suit. Only those caused by another party’s misconduct or negligence are considered grounds to file a suit. Below are examples of cases that might call for a wrongful death lawsuit:
• Auto accidents caused by the other driver’s negligence, e.g., drinking and driving, driving while texting, and speeding;
• Medical mistakes;
• Deaths caused by faulty products, equipment, tools, machines, and devices;
• Contaminated foods;
• Prescription medication errors;
• Mistakes made during labor and delivery of a child;
• Dangerous or defective prescription drugs;
• Fatal slip and fall accidents on another’s premises;
• Injuries and illnesses at work caused by a third party’s errors; and
• Assaults and acts of violence. (Note: The wrongful death suit will be a civil suit that is completely separate from any criminal actions pending on the defendant.)
Who can file a wrongful death suit in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin law provides that one of two parties can bring a wrongful death claim: “the personal representative of the deceased person or…the person to whom the amount recovered belongs.” Beneficiaries include surviving spouses, same-sex partners, children, step-children, dependent parents and any other relative that was dependent upon the deceased. Only one wrongful death lawsuit can be filed; all qualified beneficiaries will receive a portion of the settlement.
It is highly ill-advised to try to file a wrongful death claim without a representative. There are legal technicalities and procedures with which the general public is not familiar, and you may wind up inadvertently hurting your chances of securing a settlement. For a legal representative to help with your case, you are welcome to contact Attorney Stephen B. Strnad, S.C.
Elements Necessary to Prove Your Case
To win your wrongful death case, you and your lawyer will need to be able to establish the following.
• That your loved one’s death was caused by a wrongful act.
• That had your loved one lived, the wrongful act would have entitled him/her to recover damages in a personal injury suit.
• That you are a beneficiary.
• You have sustained monetary damages as a result of your loved one’s death.
You will need to begin collecting evidence to demonstrate the above elements and support your claim. Specifically, you will need to provide evidence that proves to the insurer or courts that the death was wrongful, as well as evidence that shows your monetary losses. It is a good idea to create a file folder and store all notes, reports, papers and receipts related to your loved one’s death in it.
Compensable Damages in a Statutory Wrongful Death Suit
Should your claim or lawsuit prove successful, the law provides that you can recover numerous types of damages. Wisconsin Statutes 895.04(1) state that a beneficiary “may recover such medical expenses, funeral expenses, including the cost of a cemetery lot, grave marker and care of the lot, on behalf of himself or herself or of any person who has paid or assumed liability for such expenses.”
Lost wages or income the deceased would have earned had he not died due to the wrongful act is another type of damages you may pursue. There are also damages for loss of society and companionship, which is capped at $500,000 for death of a child and $350,000 for death of an adult. Punitive damages are capped at $200,000 or two times the amount awarded for compensatory damages, whichever is greater. But if death was caused by an intoxicated driver to the extent that intoxication rendered the wrongdoer incapable of safely operating the vehicle, there is no limit on the amount of punitive damages a family may recover.
Survivorship Claims are Separate and Apart from Statutory Wrongful Death Claims
Finally, separate and apart from a wrongful death lawsuit, there may also be a cause of action, claim, and damages for survivorship, which is for the conscious pain and suffering the deceased person experienced from the time of injury up to the time of his death. Unlike wrongful death claims there are no limits for damages in a survivorship claim.
In Wisconsin, pain and suffering for survivorship claims includes fear of impending death as well as physical pain and suffering in the seconds, or minutes, or any time leading up to death. In assessing a survivorship claim in Wisconsin, jurors are instructed to consider the nature, extent, and duration of all physical pain and suffering as well as any mental anguish, discomfort, or sorrow.
An experienced fatal accident attorney in Milwaukee can convince a jury to award substantial amounts of damages in survivorship claims.
Wrongful Death Lawyer, Stephen B. Strnad, S.C. Can Help
Stephen B. Strnad, S.C. has devoted his entire practice to helping injured victims and families of wrongful death victims. If you recently lost a loved one in an untimely accident, we extend our condolences. We are here to assist with your legal needs and answer any questions you might have about filing a wrongful death claim.
Call the Law Offices of Stephen B. Strnad, S.C. in Milwaukee at 414-939-5293 for a free consultation or contact us online [link to Contact page].