Did your loved one die in a Wauwatosa accident that was caused by the negligence or careless act of another person or entity? If so, you may be able to lessen the financial impact that this unexpected death has had on your life by filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. A qualified Wauwatosa wrongful death attorney can help you determine if you are eligible to recover damages.
What Is Wrongful Death?
The Wisconsin State Legislature describes wrongful death as the death of a person that is “caused by a wrongful act, neglect, or default and the act, neglect, or default is such as would, if death had not ensued, have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages.”
How Do You Prove Wrongful Death?
To prove wrongful death, you must prove the following elements of the case:
- The wrongdoer had a duty of care to keep the victim safe. This duty of care depends on what was happening at the time that the act occurred. For example, the duty of care for the driver of a motor vehicle would be to operate their vehicle in a safe manner. The duty of care for a physician might include a proper diagnosis, or proper treatment for the diagnosis given. The duty of care for a resident or business owner would involve keeping their property safe from hazards that might injure their visitors.
- There was a breach in that duty of care that led to the injuries that caused the victim’s death. Again, depending on the circumstances, this breach might be distracted driving, a misdiagnosis, or debris that was left lying around where it could cause someone to trip and fall.
- Because of the breach of duty, the victim did suffer injuries that led to his or her death and created expenses and hardship for the family of the victim.
What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?
The most common types of negligent acts that justify a wrongful death claim include:
- Automobile collisions caused by another driver’s negligent or reckless actions
- Accidents that occur on another person’s property, at a place of business, or a public property due to improper maintenance
- Harm suffered due to an unsafe product that was defectively designed or manufactured
- Workplace accidents involving defective equipment or unsafe working conditions
- Medical negligence on the part of a doctor, surgeon, or medical staff
The list of ways that the negligence of others can cause the injuries and deaths of innocent victims is extensive, and the above causes are just a few of those ways. Regardless of what type of act caused your loved one’s untimely death, our Wauwatosa wrongful death attorneys are committed to working diligently to protect your interests and obtain the compensation you deserve.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit?
A wrongful death claim must be filed within three years of the injury that caused the death of the individual, or within three years of reasonable discovery of an injury that caused death. In a wrongful death lawsuit, only certain parties may file the claim, including the deceased person’s:
- Personal estate representative
- Surviving spouse, partner, child, parent, or legal guardian
However, regardless of who files the wrongful death claim, if the deceased individual is survived by a spouse, partner, or child under the age of 18 years, the court is required to allocate a portion of any damages recovered for the express care of those dependents. This amount varies depending on the age and abilities of the dependents, and it cannot be greater than 50 percent of the entire damages award. A Wauwatosa wrongful death attorney can help you determine the damages you are eligible to recover.
Who Can a Wrongful Death Claim be Filed Against?
The victim’s family members may file a claim against the party that was responsible for the victim’s death. Depending on the particular circumstances, this could include:
- The at-fault driver in an automobile collision
- The owner of a dangerous piece of property
- An employer who has an unsafe workplace environment
- The manufacturer or distributor of a dangerous or defective product
- Doctors or hospital staff who were negligent in their provision of medical care
- Staff or ownership at elderly care facilities
It should be noted that, in cases where the wrongdoer dies prior to the death of the injured person, a wrongful death suit can be filed against the wrongdoer’s estate.
What Damages Might a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Recover?
If a victim’s family can establish that another person or entity’s negligence was the cause of their loved one’s death, they may be able to obtain compensation for some of their financial losses. Damages can include monetary compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages and loss of future earnings
- Loss of society and companionship—up to $350,000 for a deceased adult and up to $500,000 for a deceased child
- A survivorship claim can also be made by the decedent’s personal representative, for damages relating to any conscious pain or suffering that was experienced by the decedent between the time of the injury and the time of death.
Punitive damages—designed to punish the at-fault party monetarily for a particularly egregious case—are not allowed in wrongful death cases. A wrongful death lawyer can help you determine which damages you are eligible to seek.
Wrongful Death Statistics
A 2013 study published by the Journal of Patient Safety revealed that more than 200,000 deaths a year in the United States are attributed to preventable harm caused at hospitals.
- The Centers for Disease Control report that about 90 people die each day in U.S. motor vehicle crashes. This is the highest death rate due to car crashes among high-income countries around the world.
- According to information from the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for 11 percent of workplace fatalities for men and 5 percent for women.
- A National Safety Council report revealed that an American dies due to accidental injury every four minutes.
- Unintentional injury—including accidents that happen at work, home, or in vehicles—are the fourth leading killer in the United States, claiming more lives than stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, flu, or suicide, the National Safety Council report noted.
- As reported by Safety News Alert, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of accidental death, behind only accidental poisoning or overdose in frequency. Falls ranked third, and accidental suffocation by ingestion or inhalation fourth. Drowning was the fifth most-common cause of accidental death.
Wrongful Death in the Wisconsin News
According to a January 2019 article from Wisconsin Public Radio, the family of a Madison woman who was fatally shot by a coworker has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her employer. The woman’s former coworker pleaded guilty for the 2016 shooting that occurred at the Metro Market. The suit alleges that the owners of the Metro Market knew that this former coworker had a history of harassing females that he worked with and was even accused of sexually assaulting one of them. The suit states that the owners did nothing to supervise or investigate the man after learning of his behavior.
As reported in January 2019, by the Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a trial could begin in the wrongful death lawsuit against the city of New Berlin. The suit states that New Berlin’s Parks and Recreation Department failed to perform its ministerial duties when it allowed an eight-year-old child who was unable to swim to get into a Wauwatosa pool as part of its summer camp. While other children were getting ready to swim, a lifeguard found the child in distress in the pool. She died at the hospital days later. The suit alleges that the summer camp staff had written guidelines requiring that they test each child’s swimming abilities before allowing them into the pool and that they failed to do so. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturns a Court of Appeals decision that the city was immune from the lawsuit, which was filed by the parents of the deceased child.
In December 2018, the widow of a Sun Prairie firefighter filed a wrongful death lawsuit against subcontractors that she says were responsible for the natural gas explosion that killed her husband and leveled their small business, WMTV reported. One company named in the lawsuit had been hired to build a fiber optic network in the area where the explosion occurred, and another company was tasked with locating and marking underground utilities. Due to errors in that process, a main gas line was hit with a drill during the construction. The strike to the gas line caused an explosion, which killed the firefighter and destroyed the tavern that he and his wife owned. The lawsuit is one of three filed against the companies, with the other two coming from two firefighters who were also injured in the blast.
Contact an Experienced Wauwatosa Wrongful Death Attorney Today
The death of a family member can be emotionally devastating. If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another person, entity, or defective product, we understand that you are undergoing a stressful and emotional ordeal. At Groth Law Firm, S.C., our Wauwatosa wrongful death lawyers will treat you with courtesy, respect, and sensitivity, while representing your case aggressively. If you have recently lost a loved one in an accident, please contact us at Groth Law Firm online or by calling (414) 240-0707 for a free consultation.