The death of a loved one can be incredibly difficult. You can feel depressed, anxious, angry, and overwhelmed. If that death happened unexpectedly as a result of an accident, or the negligence or actions of another party, it can be all the more overwhelming and awful.
As you grieve your loss and find the strength to live without your loved one, you may be feeling pressured by insurance companies to settle any legal claim you have around your loss. Before you sign anything, you owe it to yourself and to your family to talk with a caring, compassionate team of attorneys experienced in Louisiana wrongful death law. No amount of money can repair the loss or take away your pain. But one of the best ways to seek justice and make sure no other family goes through what you have is to hold the party at fault financially responsible.
Wrongful Death Under Louisiana Law
The Louisiana Civil Code that governs wrongful death and survival action cases makes clear that “every act whatever of man that causes damage to another obliges him by whose fault it happened to repair it.”
Wrongful death can be the result of a number of different scenarios. Medical malpractice can lead to wrongful death, in cases such as surgical error or medication errors. Negligence can cause wrongful death, for example, if a party fails to make reasonable repairs to a stairway that leads to a slip and fall death. Traffic accidents involving distracted driving, disregard for traffic laws, or drunk driving are other examples. Wrongful death can result from a workplace injury or a defective product.
In general, in order to prevail in a wrongful death case, the surviving family member/s must meet a similar burden of proof as would be necessary to show liability if the victim had lived. So, for example, in the case of negligence, the victim’s family or estate would need to show that: 1) the party at fault had a duty to exercise “reasonable care,” 2) that party failed in its duty, and 3) that failure caused the death of the victim. The victim’s family must then show that damages were suffered by themselves (and the victim in the case of survival actions) as a result of the death and circumstances surrounding it.
Who May Seek Wrongful Death Damages In Louisiana?
Louisiana law allows the following people to bring a wrongful death or survival claim:
- 1- The victim’s spouse and children
- 2- The victim’s parents, if the victim left no surviving spouse or child
- 3- The victim’s brothers and sisters, if the victim left no surviving spouse, child, or parent
- 4- The victim’s grandparents, if the victim left no surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling
These definitions include immediate family members through adoption. If a parent has effectively abandoned the deceased during their childhood, that parent is not entitled to seek wrongful death damages.
Damages In Louisiana Wrongful Death Cases
Louisiana law demands that a person or party responsible for causing the death of another must compensate the deceased’s family for damages endured and future losses.
Damages can be economic or non-economic and can include:
- Loss of support
- Loss of services
- Loss of love and affections
- Lost wages and benefits
- Loss of society
- Mental anguish and emotional suffering
- Funeral and burial expenses
Under Louisiana law, certain family members may also seek damages through a “survivor action” for all medical costs and other damages, as well as the pain and suffering that their loved one endured prior to his or her death.
If a wrongful death is proven to have been caused by egregious, malicious, willful, wanton or reckless action or gross negligence, a Louisiana civil court may also award punitive damages separate from economic and non-economic damages. Damages for a wrongful death caused by a drunk driver, domestic abuse, or a hazing incident may also include “exemplary damages” under Louisiana law. The surviving family members of an unborn child can file a wrongful death claim seeking damages against parties found to be liable for his or her death under Louisiana Law.
Criminal Cases & Statute Of Limitations
Some wrongful death cases may involve the same facts of an ongoing or prosecuted criminal case. For example, if a drunk driver kills a pedestrian, the state may prosecute that person on criminal charges, and the family of the victim may also file a wrongful death claim against that person. A criminal case does not prevent a wrongful death claim, but it’s important to understand the differences between the two cases and how each may influence the other.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Louisiana is one year from the time of the death. If you have lost a loved one and believe another party to be at fault, speak to an attorney with experience in Louisiana wrongful death cases as soon as possible to ensure proper time to prepare a strong case before filing in court if it becomes necessary.
Call TheCharbonnet Law Firm Today
If you have lost a loved one due to a workplace accident, a car, truck or motorcycle accident, a slip or trip and fall, medical malpractice or any other action or negligence on the part of another, you owe it to yourself to speak with a trusted, skilled attorney today. The Charbonnet Law Firm is a family firm that has been winning for victims in Louisiana for more than five decades. Let us help you understand your legal rights and the options you have in your wrongful death case. We will be with your family every step of the way, taking care of all the details and ensuring the best possible resolution of your case, so that you can focus on healing.