An experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to review all of the facts relevant to the case and calculate an equitable amount of financial compensation for you and your family.
A wrongful death attorney does a lot of things to ease the burden for families of the recently deceased. They investigate the events surrounding the death of your family member, determine liability, ensure you understand your rights, and, if necessary, file a wrongful death lawsuit on your behalf seeking financial compensation for the damages arising from the victim’s passing.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?
If you recently lost a family member due to someone else’s negligence, you have rights as a surviving relative. When a deliberate or reckless act costs someone their life, the person responsible could owe the victim’s family considerable financial compensation. This compensation is usually recovered via a civil wrongful death claim.
A wrongful death claim is distinct from a criminal case, which would be brought by the federal or state government. In a criminal case, the prosecutor can pursue charges of voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, or murder. The outcome of a criminal case is usually probation, fines, or incarceration.
In civil cases, the liable party or entity is not facing any of these penalties. Rather, the family suing on behalf of their loved one is seeking compensation for their damages. If you and your wrongful death lawyer can prove that the other party was negligent, then financial recovery can be obtained through either an out-of-court settlement or a trial.
Who is Eligible to File a Hawaii Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Hawaii, only certain surviving family members are eligible to file a wrongful death suit. They are:
- Surviving spouses
- Reciprocal beneficiaries
- Surviving children
- Surviving parents
- Anyone who was financially dependent on the victim
Like every other state, Hawaii sets a time limit on how long you have to file a wrongful death claim. These claims must be filed no more than two years from the day of the victim’s passing.
Although a two-year deadline sounds ample, it is always a good idea to consult with a wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will need evidence to prove your case for compensation. The more time passes between death and legal action, the harder it will be to find critical evidence and locate eyewitnesses.
Besides ensuring that you do not miss this or any other important deadlines that apply to your case, a wrongful death attorney will also:
Investigate Your Family Member’s Death
The details encompassing wrongful death cases can be unclear, mostly because so many people give opposing accounts about what happened. This incongruity could stem from a genuine misunderstanding or confusion. More likely, it occurs because the at-fault person is trying to conceal facts and shift the blame in an effort to circumvent taking responsibility for their actions. An experienced wrongful death lawyer has the resources to thoroughly investigate your loved one’s death and determine exactly what happened and who is at fault.
If, for example, your loved one was killed in a car accident, a wrongful death attorney would be able to review the police crash report along with any witness statements. A skilled lawyer might discover that a security camera in the area recorded the car accident or the minutes immediately leading up to or following it. This video would serve as vital evidence that the other motorist behaved recklessly or broke the law. This is information that will be extremely useful for building a strong wrongful death case.
Another common cause of wrongful death claims is medical malpractice. A study by Johns Hopkins University determined that 10% of all fatalities in the United States are due to medical negligence.
An attorney can examine the victim’s medical records and work with various medical professionals to determine if the doctor who treated your family member met the medical standard of care. An in-depth investigation could reveal that the physician made an incorrect diagnosis, failed to diagnose, prescribed a contraindicated medication or a medication to which the deceased was allergic, or made a mistake during an operation. This will help your wrongful death lawyer prove the doctor was guilty of medical negligence. It will also help build a strong legal claim against the medical facility that treated your family member.
Ensure You Understand Your Rights
Laws governing wrongful death lawsuits are set by each individual state. Based on where you live, you might not be eligible to sue for compensation. Many states, like Hawaii, permit only immediate family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, while some let distant relatives, and even people wholly unrelated to the deceased, file this type of lawsuit.
A qualified lawyer will also be able to explain the civil statute of limitations as it applies to your wrongful death case. As previously mentioned, Hawaii sets a two-year deadline on these and other kinds of personal injury cases. There are some circumstances, under which the statute can be tolled, but keep in mind that if you let the deadline for filing lapse for any reason, including misunderstanding the statute, you will forfeit your right to any financial compensation regardless of the validity of your claim. A skilled wrongful death lawyer can easily assess your case and explain all applicable deadlines to ensure you are not denied your right to file.
Pursue Financial Compensation
A wrongful death attorney can also seek compensation that covers your economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages usually include any medical bills your loved one incurred prior to their death, funeral and burial or cremation costs, and the loss of the financial contribution the deceased made to the household.
Non-economic damages should also be included. These usually include the pain and suffering your family member endured after the accident, the loss of the support, love, affection, and fellowship they provided, and the mental trauma caused by the wrongful death.
In rare circumstances, your attorney might also seek punitive damages. Those damages are meant to punish the at-fault person for behavior that is especially egregious or malicious and act as a deterrent to others who may be considering similar actions.
An experienced wrongful death attorney will be able to review all of the facts relevant to the case and calculate an equitable amount of financial compensation for you and your family. They can also file a lawsuit and skillfully negotiate a settlement that should keep you out of court. Even though most civil cases are resolved through settlements, parties are not always able to reach an agreement. If this happens, your wrongful death lawyer will take your case to trial and let a jury determine whether you are entitled to compensation and, if so, how much.