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Losing a loved one is painful, especially when the victim’s death would not have occurred but for someone else’s negligent conduct. Many deaths are avoidable and allow certain individuals to seek damages from the at-fault party. This is where a wrongful death lawsuit comes in. If a family member has passed away, the executor or administrator of the deceased victim’s estate may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Stanfield Bechtel Law’s experienced wrongful death attorneys can help you make the strongest possible legal claim.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Wrongful death is a type of legal claim filed against a party whose negligent or intentional actions resulted in someone else’s death. It can be thought of as an extension of personal injury law in that a wrongful death claim may be filed when a victim dies from his or her injuries. Had the victim survived, he or she would have maintained their own personal injury lawsuit.

Because wrongful death claims are so similar to personal injury, many of the same kinds of accidents and injuries can give rise to one of these lawsuits. Examples include:

What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

One significant difference between wrongful death and personal injury claims is the types of damages that may be sought. For wrongful death, these include:

  • The deceased victim’s final medical, hospital, and nursing expenses
  • The victim’s loss of lifetime earnings and benefits
  • Conscious pain and suffering that the victim experienced prior to death
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • For spouses, loss of consortium (meaning the love, care, intimacy, and companionship that the deceased victim would have provided had he or she lived)

In wrongful death lawsuits involving a fatal car accident, the judge may allow for double or triple damages if the following apply:

  • The at-fault party is found guilty of recklessly or knowingly disregarding certain traffic laws
  • Such disregard was a substantial factor in causing the victim’s death

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Not just anyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Connecticut. The action must be pursued by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate.

If the deceased victim left a valid last will and testament, meaning he or she died testate, the will names someone as the estate’s executor. Spouses, siblings, children, and parents are frequently named as executors in wills, although this individual does not have to be a family member.

If the victim dies intestate (meaning, without a will), the probate court will appoint an administrator of the estate. Similar to an executor, the administrator could be a family member or someone who is not a relative.

What are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Claim?

To successfully file a wrongful death lawsuit, the following must be proven:

  • Duty of care. The duty of care refers to a legal obligation to avoid engaging in behavior that may result in foreseeable harm to another person. The at-fault party must have owed the deceased victim a duty of care.
  • Breach. A breach of the duty of care usually results from an act or omission that amounts to legal negligence, such as drunk driving. Intentional acts can also qualify as breaches.
  • Causation. The negligent or intentional act in question must have directly contributed to the death of the victim, or to the injuries that later resulted in death.
  • Damages. Finally, the estate and surviving loved ones must have suffered damages. Both the estate and the family of the deceased victim are entitled to compensation for these damages.

Is There a Time Limit to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim?

By law, there is a deadline to file a wrongful death lawsuit. This is known as the statute of limitations. The estate’s executor or administrator has two years from the date of the deceased victim’s death to bring a wrongful death claim. It’s important to not delay taking action, however, since it will become more difficult to locate evidence and build the best possible claim the longer you wait.

How Our Wrongful Death Attorneys Can Help You

Our wrongful death lawyers understand what it takes to build a strong case. When a client retains us, we get to work investigating the circumstances surrounding the deceased victim’s death. After the lawsuit is filed we use formal discovery methods to acquire more relevant evidence as we begin putting your lawsuit together.

Expert witness testimony can help present a compelling case. An expert witness is a person with specialized knowledge who can explain complex topics to a jury. For example, a forensic pathologist can discuss the amount of time the deceased victim experienced pain and suffering before passing away. Our firm has a network of expert witnesses who are ready to serve the needs of our clients.

Finally, it may be possible to negotiate a settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Many wrongful death lawsuits settle in this way before reaching the courtroom. If the defendant or the defendant’s insurer offers to settle the lawsuit, your attorney will explain the advantages of settlement versus the risks of going to trial.

But if the insurance company won’t negotiate in good faith, we are prepared to take your case in front of a jury. We are experienced not only with the statutes and court decisions that govern wrongful death lawsuits but also with the rules of evidence and civil procedure. Familiarity with these rules is essential to correctly filing and litigating your claim.

Contact Our Connecticut Wrongful Death Attorney

No amount of money can bring back a loved one who died because of someone else’s wrongful conduct. However, a dedicated attorney can help your family win the justice and compensation you deserve. To learn more about taking legal action in a wrongful death case, give Stanfield Bechtel Law a call today.