Losing a loved one may just be one of the hardest things you may ever go through. The hole left behind by that person's absence can never be filled. When that loss comes suddenly at the hands of someone else, the situation takes on another level of grief.
Nothing can bring back your loved one, but it might be possible to seek some closure, along with compensation for the financial losses the death of your loved one caused. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim seeking compensation for those losses.
Do you have standing to file a lawsuit?
The first step to determining whether you can file a wrongful death claim is to figure out whether you have standing to file the claim. Immediate family members, spouses, parents and children may seek a recovery. However, the person who actually files the lawsuit is the executor or personal representative of your loved one's estate.
What do you have to show to the court?
The court will look for evidence of the following factors:
- Your loved one died.
- The probate court appointed an executor or personal representative of the estate of your loved one.
- Another person's negligence or intent to harm caused the death.
- You suffered financial losses due to the loss of your loved one.
Unlike a criminal proceeding in which prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in court, civil proceedings do not require such a high burden of proof. If the individual believed to have caused the death faced criminal charges, the results of those proceedings may also provide evidence in your civil claim.
What damages can you seek?
The law allows you to seek certain types of damages through a wrongful death claim. When your loved one died, you may have lost a source of financial support, loss of an inheritance and loss of services. There could also be expenses related to the medical care your family member may have received prior to death. Additionally, you may have the ability to recover the costs associated with the funeral and burial. As part of any award you may receive, the court adds interest from the date of death.
Providing the evidence necessary to prove your wrongful death claim only constitutes part of the equation. You will also need to put together an estimate of your damages. This process can be complex, and fortunately, you can make use of local legal resources here in Rapid City to help you receive the closure and compensation you deserve.