Yes, you can generally sue for wrongful death if the following applies:
- You are the surviving spouse or “next of kin” (may include a child (including an adult child), parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece and nephew);
- There is evidence to support the underlying claim for money damages (for example, product liability, food poisoning, negligent driving) against a person or company.
It is not technically you who are suing. The court appoints a trustee to file a lawsuit on behalf of the family. Any money won in a settlement or verdict is distributed proportionate to the loss. This means that a surviving spouse will generally get most of the money. The distribution amounts are determined by court order, which means the judge makes the final decision.
Our Law Firm Has Won Large Settlements and Verdicts
- $10 million for negligent conduct that led to an explosion
- $6 million for a family from a negligent driver and car dealership
- $3 million from a school district
- $3 million from a hotel
What is Your Underlying Claim?
Wrongful death cases can involve any of the following: traffic accident, product liability, Legionnaires’ disease, medical malpractice, fire and/or explosion, assault or animal attack. The defendants (people and companies sued) in a lawsuit are different for each claim. Read on to learn about each kind of underlying claim.
Who you and your family can sue depends on the vehicles involved in the crash.
- Passenger in a Single-Car Crash. Depending on the facts, the family of a passenger can sue the driver and the owner of the car (sometimes not the driver, particularly when a teenager is the driver). If a hazard in the road caused the accident, even in part, the lawsuit can include the person or company responsible. If a state, county or city caused the hazard, it is is often possible to get compensation for that.
- Hit by Another Vehicle. The family of someone killed in the vehicle struck by the at-fault driver can sue that driver, or any of the above, depending on the facts. If the at-fault vehicle was commercial (used in business), the business owner is also potentially liable (legally responsible). For example, if a FedEx truck or van caused the accident, you may have a claim against FedEx. In addition, when an 18-wheeler truck and trailer is at fault, you may have a claim against the owner of the freight being hauled.
- Crash Caused by Defective Part or Servicing. Some crashes are caused by defective brakes, steering, tires, or another defective part. In these cases, the manufacturer of the defective vehicle and the maker of the specific part are generally liable. If the vehicle that caused the crash was recently serviced at a car dealership or other auto mechanic, your family may have a claim against that business.
Product liability claims involve defective or dangerous products. In these cases, we generally pursue the manufacturer and, depending on the facts, others.
- Food Poisoning. We are one of the few law firms in the U.S. that practices extensively in this area. We have won millions for people sickened in outbreaks of potentially fatal illnesses involving pathogens like Campylobacter (can cause Guillain-Barre syndrome), E. coli (can cause hemolytic uremic syndrome renal failure), Listeria (can cause listeriosis meningitis), Salmonella (can cause sepsis and respiratory failure) and Vibrio (25% mortality rate). You may have the right to sue any of the following: a grocery store or other retailer, a restaurant, a food processor, supplier or grower.
- Medical Products. Our lawyers have been chosen by judges as leaders in litigation against medical product companies. These cases involve medications and medical devices, and your lawsuit may be against a pharmaceutical or medical device company, compounding pharmacy and others. For example, our law firm won a number of settlements from medical clinics and a compounding pharmacy when people contracted fungal meningitis and other fungal infections from a product sold as sterile that was contaminated with fungus mold.
- Consumer Products. This includes any product you would by at a retail store like Walmart, Costco, Target, or the corner store. You may have claims against the manufacturer of the finished product and a defective part, and in some cases, a retailer.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. You may have a claim against one or more of the following: a manufacturer of a defective appliance, including a water heater, air conditioner or heater; a heating and air conditioning company; the owner of the building.
Our law firm is one of the few in the nation that handles a lot of Legionnaires’ disease cases. These involve an elderly person getting pneumonia from an infection of Legionella bacteria in the lungs. In one of our cases, a woman contracted Legionnaires’ pneumonia from contaminated water at a hotel. The investigation found Legionella in the hotel pool. Fred and Eric won $3 million for the family.
Legionnaires’ disease is caused by breathing in water mist contaminated with Legionella bacteria. The bacteria migrates to the lungs and causes severe pneumonia. We understand that pneumonia is always very serious, but the mortality rate (percentage of people who die) is very high, in some outbreaks 30%. Legionnaires’ disease is also called legionellosis. It is a “notifiable infectious disease,” meaning hospitals are required to notify the CDC of a case.
These cases can be hospital-acquired or community-acquired. Depending on the facts of your case, you may have a case against a hospital, nursing home, the Veterans’ Administration, a hotel, motel, resort, spa, school district, university, or other building owner.
Most medical malpractice lawsuits are against one or more of the following:
- Medical Center or hospital
- Psychologist or other therapist.
When a death is caused by a defective medical product used by a medical professional, we do not always include the medical professional in the suit. This is something you will need to discuss with attorney Brendan Flaherty, one of our law firm’s lead lawyers for these cases.
Fire and/or Explosion
Fire and explosion cases are extremely complex, and our law firm’s independent investigation may uncover evidence implicating (pointing the finger at) companies that were not initially suspected to be at fault. For this reason, it is difficult to even list the possible defendants (companies that can be sued), but the following is a short list of possible defendants, depending on the facts:
- The owner of the building (homeowner, landlord, etc.);
- A person or business that was leasing the space where the fire began;
- A propane or natural gas company;
- A heating and air conditioning company;
- Any company that did maintenance work before the fire or explosion;
- The manufacturer of a defective smoke and/or gas detector or defective appliance (oven, heater, etc.).
A business owner is sometimes legally responsible for an assault. For example, if someone is beaten up and killed in a bar, the owner of the bar may be liable. Or if a hotel gives someone a key to your room and your loved one is raped and killed, the hotel owner is responsible and can be sued. We also won a case where the owner of an apartment complex did not fix a lock on a window. Someone broke into an apartment through that window.
If an animal attack results in wrongful death, the family may have claims against the owner of the animal, the owner of the property where it happened and others. In most cases, the animal involved is a dog, but horses, cows and other animals can inflict a fatal blow.
Contact our law firm for a free consultation with a lawyer. We are not paid unless you win. We hold corporate wrongdoers accountable.