A lot of people wonder what a wrongful death case is and how it can apply to them. As a general rule, if someone dies as a result of a negligent act or a third party, a wrongful death claim could be made. Naturally, a lot of laws, statutes, rules and regulations surround wrongful death claims.
Examples of Wrongful Death Suits
There are many different types of wrongful death cases, as people can die in a variety of different circumstances. However, the three most common types are:
- Wrongful death through medical malpractice.
- Wrongful death as a result of vehicular accidents.
- Wrongful death due to prescription drugs.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, lawsuits involving medical malpractice resulting in wrongful death tend to lead to the highest insurance payouts. They are most common in hospitals and physicians are most often accused of wrongful death. It is also for this reason that the Institute of Medicine is driving changes to make the medical field a safer area of practice.
Looking next at vehicular accidents, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported that the number of fatalities on roads has dropped significantly over recent years. However, significant concerns continue to exist in terms of fatal accidents involving trucks and buses. Indeed, many wrongful death claims involve these types of vehicles.
One of the most worrying statistics has been reported for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They have stated that there has been a sharp rise in deaths resulting from prescription drugs. Indeed, they are now the second leading cause in the country for unintentional deaths. However, it is important to understand that these cases often involve addiction and that people obtain the drugs through illegal channels. Filing a wrongful death suit against a pharmaceutical company is quite rare, with the exception of recent cases involving Zoloft.
Besides the three reasons for wrongful death cases described above, other common cases involve product defects, work place accidents and premises liability. However, if somebody dies from non-natural causes, there is a chance that a wrongful death suit can be filed. However, it must be demonstrated that the non-natural death was a result of the action or inaction of a third party, whether it is an individual, a company or even a government entity.
When Wrongful Death Cases Get Complicated
In many occasions, it is blatantly obvious that there is a case of wrongful death to be made. For instance, if a driver gets behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes an accident in which someone dies, it is likely that the fault is entirely that of the driver. Other cases are not as clear cut, however. For instance, if someone hires a jet ski and dies when using it, it may seem as if it was his own behavior that caused the death. However, if he were not properly instructed by the owner or if the jet ski was defective, there may actually be a case to be made for wrongful death. It is for this reason that, if a loved one dies from non-natural causes, you should always speak to an attorney to determine whether or not they are responsible.
Examples of Notable Wrongful Death Cases
There have been a number of very famous wrongful death cases. Often, these cases are publicly followed and broadcasted on television. This is because the cases are trialed as a civil case. As a result, people discuss and debate these cases and, often, no public agreement is reached in terms of whether the verdict was just or not.
One example of this is the suit started in August 2010 by Joe Jackson, who accused Dr. Conrad Murray for the death of his son, Michael Jackson. The pop star died in 2009 when he overdosed on a prescription anesthetic. This drug was frequently administered by Dr. Murray in an attempt to provide treatment for Jackson’s chronic insomnia. However, the drug is not approved for these purposes and as Dr. Murray provided him with an unusually large dose, this led to the death of the singer. Dr. Murray was hired by AEG Live, which was also targeted in the wrongful death case. The jury decided that Dr. Murray did not have to pay damages to the Jackson family. What makes this case particularly interesting, and similar to other famous wrongful death cases, is that Dr. Murray also faced criminal charges and was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Another famous case was filed by former MLB player Esteban Loaiza in the death of his wife Jenni Rivera, the musical super star from Latin America. Rivera and others were on an airplane that crashed, killing everyone on board. Esteban had sued the owner of the aircraft, even though he was no longer in a relationship with Jenni Rivera at the time of her death. The suit was filed in February 2014 in California. Starwood Management Inc., the owners of the airplane, had asked for the case to be moved to Mexico, but the California legal system disagreed. The case is likely to go on for a number of years yet and it is not clear for what amount Loaiza is suing the company.