A Michigan wrongful death lawyer can help if you lost a loved one due to an accident, medical negligence, or intentional act of another. Losing a loved one is always a difficult and tragic experience, especially when their death is unexpected and due to someone else’s careless, reckless, or malicious behavior.
After their passing, the idea of pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible person or entity may feel daunting. However, our compassionate Michigan wrongful death lawsuit lawyers can help.
Our dedicated and experienced attorneys will work tirelessly to assess the circumstances of the incident, gather necessary evidence, and build a claim on your behalf.
We will then file a wrongful death lawsuit to get you and your family the highest possible settlement for your case.
- Accidental and unintentional wrongful death statistics
- What are the common types of wrongful death lawsuits?
- Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Michigan?
- What are the steps to file a wrongful death claim in Michigan?
- What are the claims for a surviving spouse?
Get the Best Wrongful Death Attorneys in Michigan
Our award-winning Michigan wrongful death lawsuit lawyers are the smart choice for your case.
We have earned the top ratings in the legal profession, including U.S. News & World Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and The Best Lawyers in America.
The Buckfire Law Firm has offices in Southfield, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Macomb County.
We handle cases statewide, including in Monroe, Lansing, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and in both Northern Michigan and the Thumb Area.
We have the highest possible rating for legal skill and integrity.
How is Wrongful Death Defined in Michigan?
Essentially, wrongful death is when someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligence — this includes individuals, businesses, or other entities.
After a person’s passing, state law allows the decedent’s surviving family members to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or parties in order to request compensation, usually with the help of a Michigan wrongful death lawyer.
Regardless of whether the action —or, sometimes, inaction — of a person, company, product manufacturer, trucking company, or other entity was intentional, there may still be grounds for a legal claim and a death case.
Our experienced Michigan wrongful death lawyers help people seeking a wrongful death claim investigate the circumstances of an incident and determine negligence.
The term “wrongful death” often refers to a civil lawsuit seeking compensation by family members for the death of a loved one. Death can be either accidental or intentional.
When a patient dies due to the negligence of a medical provider, like a doctor, hospital, or nursing home, a wrongful death lawsuit can also be filed for the damages caused by the loss.
Accident and Unintentional Injury Statistics
According to the National Safety Council, accidental deaths are the top cause of death in the United States for people between the ages of 1 and 42. For all age groups, accidents are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Most accidents occur in the home or in the community and are often the result of negligence.
The number of emergency department visits in 2016 for unintentional injuries was 30.8 million in the United States. While not all of these were the fault or caused by the negligence of another person, the numbers are significant. Many of those were for minor injuries, but there were 161,374 accidental deaths that occurred during the calendar year.
The largest number of unintentional deaths was in these categories:
- 34,673 caused by falls
- 40,327 from motor vehicle accidents
- 58,335 from unintentional poisonings
Other common types include firearm accidents, drug overdoses, and medical negligence.
The bar chart below shows the total number of deaths of each accidental fatality type for each gender in the state of Michigan in 2017. Overall, 63% of accidental deaths happen to males while 37% of accidental deaths happen to females.
|Cause of Death||Male||Female|
|Motor vehicle accidents||720||333|
|Water, air & space||35||13|
|Discharge of firearms||29||8|
|Drowning & submersion||81||28|
|Exposure to smoke, fire & flames||41||32|
|Poisoning & exposure to noxious substances||1,532||800|
Most Common Types of Michigan Wrongful Death Claims
A Michigan wrongful death lawsuit can be filed for accidental and intentional deaths of a loved one, but the majority of cases are filed based upon claims of legal negligence. Common examples of these personal injury cases include the practice areas of:
- Motor vehicle accidents, including car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck crashes, and pedestrians and bicycle riders hit by cars.
- Medical malpractice & hospital negligence lawsuits.
- Nursing home negligence and abuse.
- Poisonings and drug overdoses.
- Products liability, including motor vehicle defects causing death.
- Construction accidents and defective premises.
- Fires, explosions, and electrical injuries.
- Recreational accidents, like boating, jet skiing, hunting, & swimming pool accidents.
Death cases for intentional deaths can be filed in addition to the related criminal proceedings that seek terms of imprisonment instead of monetary compensation.
The most common example would be against the police for the shooting death of an innocent victim or another act like road rage that caused a death.
How do you Prove a Wrongful Death?
To prove wrongful death, you must have evidence that a person or entity was negligent, careless, or reckless in causing the death of a person. For example, if a defendant ran a red light and caused a fatal car accident, this would be clear evidence of negligence. Or, if a patient died due to medical malpractice this would be the basis for a death claim.
If the death was caused intentionally, the evidence must support that claim. This type of claim has the same burden of proof as all other personal injury lawsuits.
Typically, your wrongful death attorney will perform a complete investigation of the facts of the death case to make this determination. If a suit is filed, the sworn deposition testimony of the parties and eyewitnesses will be taken to prove liability for the death. Many times, an independent investigation will be performed by a law enforcement agency or other governmental agency.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Michigan?
The Michigan wrongful death statute gives authority to family members of the loved one to file a lawsuit for compensation for accidental deaths, fatal accidents, or intentional acts. Lawsuits can be brought by a spouse, parent, sibling, child, grandparent, or grandchild. In some cases, a more distant relative like an aunt or uncle can also file the case.
If the decedent left a will, any person named in it as an heir of the estate may also have a right to file a lawsuit, often with the help of a Michigan wrongful death lawyer.
However, before a claim may be filed, the family member or heir must first be appointed the personal representative of the decedent’s estate — typically, the family will agree on who will be appointed this position. This person will represent the interests of all family members of the case and work with the attorney.
What are the Steps to File a Michigan Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
The first step is for a family member to hire an experienced Michigan wrongful death lawyer to determine if there is a basis under state law to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If the lawyer determines that there is are valid death claims, the next step is to have a personal representative appointed by the probate court to file the lawsuit on behalf of the estate, which are essentially the other family members and heirs. This procedure is done through the probate court in the county where the decedent last resided, had property, or in the county where the death occurred.
The Michigan Wrongful Death Act — MCL § 600.2922 — outlines the details and requirements for filing a case, including:
- Which family members can file a claim, as well as which members have priority;
- The legal procedures for notifying other family members that a claim has been filed and their legal rights in a case;
- The types and damages and compensation that can be sought and obtained;
- The legal procedures and requirements for filing a case, as well as those to settle a case;
- The procedures for disbursing the settlement or claim proceeds to the surviving family members;
This procedure is usually done through the probate court within the county where the decedent last resided.
The estate can also be opened where the death occurred, or where the lawsuit will be filed within the state.
Regardless of the circumstances, a well-versed Michigan wrongful death lawyer could help a family member understand their legal standing and begin the process of filing a claim.
Our law firm handles the probate process from start to finish when you choose us to pursue the wrongful death lawsuit.
Once the personal representative is appointed by the court, we will file the lawsuit for all death claims in the circuit county court.
The lawsuit is a legal document, called a “Complaint,” and is filed at the courthouse and sets forth the legal basis for the claims. The wrongful death suit is then served on the defendants by a process server and the litigation process begins.
How Long do Cases Take to Complete?
The length of time for a wrongful death case from start to finish depends on a number of factors.
Certain types of cases might take longer, like medical malpractice, than other case types like an auto accident. Also, some judges allow longer periods of time for the parties to take depositions and do their investigations than other courts.
Death cases that have more complex issues take longer than cases with more straightforward facts and issues.
In most cases, the trial judge will require representatives from all parties to attend a mediation or settlement facilitation.
The parties and their attorneys will meet with an experienced mediator who will attempt to negotiate a settlement. These events are often successful in reaching settlement before the case goes to court for a trial.
How Much is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Worth?
The compensation received from the lawsuit is referred to as a wrongful death settlement.
There are no written schedules or guidelines for determining the amount of a death claim. If the case is not settled by the parties and goes to a trial, the judge or jury will determine the monetary amount to be awarded to the family members.
Wrongful death settlements include compensation payouts for both non-economic and economic losses.
There is no “average” or “typical” settlement amount because each case has its own unique set of facts and circumstances. Our experienced lawyers will work hard to get you the maximum settlement.
Non-economic losses include the loss of emotional support, comfort, companionship, society, moral support, and consortium due to the death of the loved one. This damage considers the loss to each family member of the victim. They also include compensation for the decedent’s pain and suffering from the time of injury through the time of the death.
In one recent case, a Michigan jury awarded $5,000,000 for only five seconds of pain and suffering before death. In other cases, the decedent may suffer for weeks and even longer before passing away. The settlements in case with extended suffering and mental anguish are often very substantial.
Compensation is also owed to the family for economic losses caused by the death of a loved one. Economic damages include the recovery of the loss of earnings including for past, present, and future losses. Our law firm usually hires an economist and accountant to prove the full extent of these losses.
Other claims are for the loss of financial support and loss of work benefits, like health insurance and a pension. The family is also entitled to the reimbursement of funeral and burial expenses.
In many cases, an economist will also place a monetary value on the loss of household services that the decedent would have provided to family members if not for the death. This type of claim will also contribute to the settlement amount.
Who Gets the Money From the Settlement?
Michigan law determines which heirs can receive money from a wrongful death settlement. The primary beneficiaries are spouses, children, and parents. However, grandparents and other blood relatives may also be entitled to settlement money. Funeral expenses are reimbursed to the family member that paid for the burial before other money is distributed to the heirs.
Further, another family member, like an adopted child of the decedent and people named in a Last Will and Testament, may also be entitled to a share of the settlement.
What are the Claims for a Surviving Spouse?
Michigan Civil Jury Instruction 52.01 directly addresses the measure of damages for injury to a spouse due to the wrongful death of the other spouse. The damages allowed to the surviving spouse include:
- The reasonable expense of necessary medical care, treatment, and services received by the spouse.
- The reasonable value of the services of a spouse, of which the surviving spouse has been deprived. This includes help around the home, bill paying, maintenance, and other services that a husband and wife typically provide to each other.
- The reasonable value of the society, companionship, and sexual relationship with the deceased spouse of which the surviving spouse has been deprived.
These damages are for the past, which is from the date of death to the present, and those that will occur in the future over through the surviving spouse’s lifetime. Our detail-oriented Michigan lawyers will calculate the full extent of their losses in order to file the proper claim.
What is the Average Wrongful Death Settlement?
There is really no typical or average wrongful death settlement. Every case is different and the settlement payout amount depends on the type of case, how the death occurred, if the death was preventable, and if some form of negligence caused the death.
The actual settlement dollar amount also varies from case to case and is based on numerous factors to determine fair compensation. A death action involving a loved one who had significant loss of earnings and work benefits could result in significant compensation to a family member who relied on the support from the death victim.
Examples of Recent Michigan Wrongful Death Settlements
- $7,000,000 wrongful death settlement in an Oakland County fatal car accident lawsuit.
- $5,080,000 jury verdict against an Oakland County assisted living facility.
- $4,500,000 settlement for a young man run over by a septic truck.
- $4,140,000 settlement for a tenant who died when a guardrail failed and he fell to his death.
- $3,825,000 settlement for a pedestrian hit by a truck while lawfully crossing an intersection.
- $3,500,000 settlement against a Detroit area hospital for the wrongful death of a patient.
- $3,350,000 settlement for a Wayne County fatal truck accident.
- $1,325,000 settlement for Waterford fatal pedestrian accident settlement.
- $1,500,000 settlement in a Shiawassee County fatal car accident lawsuit.
- $1,000,000 Macomb County wrongful death lawsuit for a bicycle accident.
- $900,000 Lansing car accident settlement for the death of a son and brother.
- $725,000 settlement for the death of a child at a Macomb County apartment complex.
- $650,000 settlement for an apartment complex swimming pool drowning.
- $600,000 settlement for a nursing home resident fatal fall in a transportation van.
How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
Once the parties agree on a settlement, the final step is to determine how the funds are paid out to the family members. The question is always which family members receive shares of the settlement and how much money is paid to each one. The personal representative will propose a settlement distribution to the heirs. Each family member is sent a copy of the proposed shares of the settlement and has the opportunity to dispute it if they believe it is unfair. There will then be a hearing and the judge makes the final determination.
Typically, the surviving spouse and children of the decedent get the largest shares of the settlement. However, this is different in every case based upon the family dynamics and the closeness of family relationships.
Most times, the family members agree on the distribution of the settlement and the judge assigned to the case will approve a fair and appropriate distribution.
If the family members cannot agree on the amounts to each person, then the presiding judge will hold a hearing and make the determination.
In either case, a court order will be entered specifying the payout amounts to each person. Once the funds are received by the attorney for the personal representative, they are disbursed to the heirs based upon the court order.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxed?
Under IRS rules, any lawsuit settlement proceeds that a court awards for physical illness or injury are non-taxable. This rule includes settlements in wrongful death cases since the damages are determined by a court’s finding that a third party is liable for the physical illness or injury that resulted in death.
Of course, it is strongly recommended that you discuss your settlement share with your accountant or tax preparer. This is the best way to make certain that you do not have to pay taxes on your funds.
How Much Time is There to File a Michigan Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under Michigan law, the time limit to file a wrongful death lawsuit is based upon the type case. These deadlines, called the statute of limitations, are not the same for every case. For example, a case involving a car accident has a three-year deadline.
Also, most negligence cases in Michigan must be filed within three years of the date of the incident. For deaths caused by intentional acts, like an assault or police shooting, there is a two-year deadline.
To file a lawsuit involving medical malpractice or nursing home negligence, there is generally a two-year deadline. However, you may have up to five years from the date of death to file your case in certain circumstances.
It is smart to contact our wrongful death attorneys as soon as possible after your loved one dies to get started on a case. Waiting too long to file suit may bar you forever from receiving a settlement.
What Does it Cost to Hire a Wrongful Death Lawyer?
It does not cost anything to hire the wrongful lawsuit lawyers at the Buckfire Law Firm.
We do not charge any fees to start your case and we only get paid when you receive your settlement check. This is called a contingency fee agreement.
We also pay all of the case expenses for you and only get a percentage of the settlement at the end when your check is received.
Start Your Wrongful Death Case Today
Call us now to tell us your story. Our attorneys are ready to help you and eager to get started on your case immediately.
We will explain your legal rights, the chances of winning your case, and how we will help you win the best possible settlement.
Michigan Accidental Death References & Resources
Attorney Larry Buckfire was relentless, tenacious, and methodical in the way he handled my mother’s wrongful death nursing home case. Larry won us a judgment of $5 million. Larry kept us in the loop every step of the way. I could not be more pleased with the results. They exceeded our expectations.
Mr. Buckfire was more than helpful. A really outstanding person, he helped us so much through our struggles and did everything in his power to get us a settlement.
Your professional and caring representation of our son and family in the wrongful death civil lawsuit has been exceptional.We could not have asked for a more thoughtful and attentive attorney — who kept us informed and shared past experiences from simlar cases that helped us to understand and guide our expectations during this tragic and painful process.Considering the facts, the judgment in the case was very rewarding.We are very pleased with your service and will highly recommend you and (Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C.) to family and friends.
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Shelby Township, MI 48316
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By: Bailey H.
Client Description: Robert Lantzy represented me on behalf of my minor son in a wrongful death lawsuit. Robert did an amazing job with our case. He always returned phone calls in a timely manor, answered all questions I had, and made sure I was happy with the settlement. I would recommend Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. to anyone that is needing a personal injury lawyer. Highly satisfied. Thank you Robert!
Rating: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars