If your loved one has been the victim of a wrongful death, you know nothing can undo the damage done by a wrongful death. But knowing that the person or party responsible was held accountable for their misconduct or negligence can bring you and other grieving survivors some comfort.
It can also help ensure you do not suffer financially due to the death of a loved one. Hiring an experienced lawyer can help ensure you present the strongest wrongful death case possible, to maximize your chances of being successful in your claim and possibly even obtain a wrongful death settlement.
What is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death occurs when a person dies due to the negligent actions or misconduct of another party. Examples of wrongful death can include car accidents—where a driver was reckless or negligent in causing another person’s death—medical malpractice, defective products, criminal behavior, and occupational hazards.
In cases where a person has died due to someone else’s misconduct, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed to recover damages.
Even in situations where no criminal charges are laid against the responsible party, because the burden of proof is lower in civil wrongful death cases, a lawsuit can still be filed.
Wrongful Death Elements
There are four elements to a wrongful death lawsuit. These must be present and proven for the surviving members to be successful in their claim.
1. Negligence: the surviving members must prove someone was negligent, careless or reckless in causing the death.
2. Breach of Duty: the surviving members must show that the defendant owed some sort of duty to the victim and breached that duty.
3. Causation: the surviving members must show that the breach of duty caused the wrongful death.
4. Damages: the surviving members must show they have suffered damages as a result of the wrongful death. These damages can include medical expenses, funeral costs, and loss of income among other damages.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Minnesota, the following survivors of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit:
The survivors can file a claim for losses they suffered as a result of the wrongful death.
A trustee—usually the spouse, if the victim was married, or a parent, if the victim was a child—is able to make decisions on behalf of all next of kin once appointed by the court. The trustee’s decisions are binding on all next of kin.
The person who is named trustee—this cannot be someone who could possibly be a defendant in the wrongful death lawsuit—is also responsible for communicating with the lawyers and to participating in responses to discovery requests. If required, the trustee must also attend hearings and mediations.
If the next of kin all agree to a plan to divide up the recovery, a petition is filed with the court and the judge will follow the family’s plan. If the family cannot agree on dividing recovery, a hearing is held and the judge determines best way to divide it.
Minnesota Wrongful Death Damages
In Minnesota, damages are limited to monetary losses suffered by the deceased’s next of kin, including any financial contributions the victim would have made to the next of kin. Minnesota law does not allow recovery for sorrow, pain and suffering, or grief in wrongful death lawsuits.