Who Can Sue After a Fatal Accident?

Who Can Sue After a Fatal…

When a fatal accident takes the life of a loved one, it can leave surviving family members wondering how they will pay for an unexpected funeral or support themselves with a provider gone. A wrongful death lawsuit can help a family recover damages and get some form of justice for the life taken. But knowing who can sue after a fatal accident, and what they can receive as compensation, can sometimes be overwhelming.

Who Files a Wrongful Death Lawsuit After a Fatal Accident?

Generally, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit is the one who got hurt. Originally, once that person died, no one else could file the suit on their behalf. This left spouses, children, and other family members unable to collect damages for the most serious fatal accidents. Connecticut lawmakers realized this wasn’t right. They created a law called the Connecticut Survival statute that allows a person’s beneficiaries to receive the compensation he or she would have been entitled to if he or she hadn’t died.

Now, the executor or administrator of a person’s estate has the authority to file a wrongful death lawsuit after a fatal accident. The claim is considered part of the estate, so any award will be divided based on the person’s will, or if they don’t have one, to the person’s closest relatives. Executors have 5 years after the accident, or 2 years after the person’s death to be granted authority by the Probate Court and then file their wrongful death lawsuit. That is why after a fatal accident, your personal injury attorney and your estate administration lawyer need to work together to make sure all your family’s rights are protected.

What if Your Loved One Dies While Their Personal Injury Case is Pending?

All non-fatal personal injury cases need to be filed within 2 years of the accident (or the discovery of the injury). However, in some serious accidents, the recovery and complications from a person’s injuries could continue far beyond that deadline. In these cases the injured person may not be physically or mentally able to make decisions like whether to file a lawsuit. Instead, as a caregiver, you may end up working with the personal injury attorneys directly under either a power of attorney or a legal “conservatorship” under the Connecticut probate code.

There are some tragic cases where a loved one was alive when their personal injury case is filed, but then dies while their case is still pending. If you find yourself in this situation, the judge will only give you a limited amount of time to start the probate process and convert the personal injury case into a wrongful death action. Even if you were a conservator before your loved one’s death, you will still need to be designated executor to act on behalf of the estate. If you don’t act quickly enough, your family’s personal injury case could be dismissed, and you may be forced to start again from the beginning.

What Damages are Available in a Wrongful Death Case?

After a fatal accident, families are faced with unexpected bills and less income to cover them. A wrongful death lawsuit won’t bring your loved one back or relieve the grief you feel. However, it can make sure you are not left with bills to pay, and provide you with some justice for your loss. Connecticut’s wrongful death statute allows a person’s estate to collect damages for:

  • Medical, doctors’, and hospital bills needed to treat your loved one’s injuries while they were alive
  • Nursing home or hospice services
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Your family may also be entitled to “just damages” that are often far larger than the documented financial loss. Just damages cover things like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of life
  • Loss of enjoyment of life’s activities

Spouses and children can also add a claim for “loss of consortium” damages to account for things their lost spouse would have contributed to around the house, including cleaning, running the household, doing chores, and providing love and companionship. This is not part of the wrongful death case itself, but is filed as a secondary claim in the same lawsuit.

If you have just lost a loved one, the last thing you want to worry about are the legal complexities of a wrongful death lawsuit. At The Lebedevitch Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys can work with you and your probate lawyer to project your family’s interests after a fatal accident. We can help you assess your options, meet all the technical requirements, and get the just compensation you need to pay your bills and make your family feel whole. Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation.