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 civil lawsuit against the responsible person or entity may feel daunting.
However, a compassionate Michigan wrongful death lawyer may be able to help. A dedicated and seasoned attorney could work tirelessly to assess the circumstances of the incident, gather necessary evidence, and build a claim on your behalf.
The Reasons for Untimely Deaths
Unfortunately, an untimely death can occur from any number of circumstances. However, in Michigan, there are common instances and accidents that may result in fatal injuries. These include, but are not limited to:
- Automobile accidents—between two cars, a motorcycle, tractor-trailer, or another vehicle
- Errors made by doctors and medical professionals—including nurses, hospitals, an ER, and others
- Worksite and construction incidents
- Swimming pool injuries
- Neglect and maltreatment in a nursing home
- Accidents and incidents on someone’s property
- Exposure to toxic and hazardous chemicals
- Recreational and leisure accidents—such as boating, bicycling, hunting, and others
Some of these incidents may result in only minor damages. However, others can lead to severe and even fatal injuries. While everyone should use the utmost caution in potentially dangerous circumstances, there are certain situations where the reckless behavior of someone else takes this safety out of their hands.
How is Wrongful Death Defined?
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.
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. An experienced Michigan lawyer could help a person seeking a wrongful death claim to study the circumstances of an incident and determine negligence.
Filing a Lawsuit
A lawsuit for wrongful or untimely death may be brought against an at-fault individual by a spouse, parent, sibling, child, grandparent, or grandchild. If the decedent left a will, any person named within may also have a right to file a lawsuit. 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.
If the child of the deceased is a minor, another family member will often bring a lawsuit forward on their behalf. 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 person to understand their legal standing and begin the process of filing a claim.
The Time Limit to File a Claim
It is important for any family member looking to pursue a wrongful death claim to understand the statute of limitations. This statute outlines how long a person has to file a claim for compensation. However, unlike other injury claims, there is no set timeframe for wrongful death claims.
Instead, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death is determined by the root cause of the claim. Therefore, if the basis of a claim is built on standard negligence, the personal representative of the deceased has three years to file a claim. While exceptions may exist to this timeframe, anyone looking to file a claim may benefit from working with a skilled Michigan attorney.
The specific damages that can be included in a claim for untimely death vary greatly based on the specific circumstances of a case. For example, a child may be able to request loss of service benefits following the death of their mother, while a spouse may request loss of consortium and loss of companionship. Loss of consortium claims are known as “derivative damages,” because they are derived from another’s untimely death.
Essentially, under state common law, which is law set by judges in other cases, certain classes of people are entitled to claim damages for loss of consortium or companionship as a result of a loved one’s death. The amount of damages that a person may be entitled to, however, is decided by a jury or a judge—if no jury demand has been made. 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
- 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
- Reasonable value of the society, companionship, and sexual relationship with 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. However, these aforementioned damages are not always mutually exclusive. Additionally, a claim may also include damages to cover the resounding financial burden a person may feel after losing a loved one. A detail-oriented Michigan lawyer could help a person to calculate the full extent of their losses in order to file an appropriate claim.
Seek the Services of a Wrongful Death Attorney
After losing a family member, the resounding impact cannot be understated. While no amount of payment could ever compensate you for your loss, a successful claim may help to ease your financial burden so that you may focus on spending time with your family.
By enlisting the help of a caring attorney, you could rest assured that a legal professional is guiding you through each step of the process. Whenever you feel ready, consider reaching out to a Michigan wrongful death lawyer to discuss your legal options.
Michigan Accidental Death References & Resources