Attorneys hired to represent the families of a person or persons who perished in an accident are known as wrongful death attorneys. A wrongful death attorney is trained in wrongful death litigation and can help close relatives of the deceased file claims or grievances against the parties responsible for the accidental death of a loved one.
In these claims, negligence is cited as the most common cause of wrongful death in the United States. Examples of such negligence include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, and construction site incidents. Wrongful death incidents may also be intentional.
Wrongful death law is a part of common law. It should be noted, however, that common law did not recognize wrongful death claims for decades. This was because the lawsuit had to be filed by the injured party; if the injured party died, so did the lawsuit as no one could then receive payment for damages. Throughout the United States, individual states began drafting wrongful death statutes which then allowed loved ones to file suit on behalf of the deceased family member.
The role of the wrongful death attorney subsequently became to assist in determining if a case is valid, how long someone has to file a wrongful death claim, and if the case will appear in court or settle out of court monetarily. When a wrongful death claim is filed, wrongful death attorneys must show proof of fault on behalf of the accused party. This means that the wrongful death attorney must show just cause as to how the defendant was negligent in causing the accidental death.
Wrongful death attorneys, if the claim appears in court, can help to provide evidence supporting the claim, display how the defendant was negligent, and advocate for monies to be issued to the family of the deceased. The decision whether in favor of the plaintiff or defendant is made by the presiding judge. If settled out of court, a wrongful death attorney can negotiate on behalf of the family to receive monies as well.
Any monies received are commensurate with fees for medical care, As each state's wrongful death laws vary from one another's, wrongful death attorneys must familiarize themselves with the legislation of the state in which the case was originated. Legislation in 1946 under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allowed people to file claims and grievances for the accidental loss of life of a family member.