In the event of death caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another person, it may be appropriate to file a wrongful death lawsuit in order to seek justice and compensation for the losses suffered. But who is eligible to file such a suit in the state of Louisiana? When is the right time to take legal action?

What is a wrongful death suit?

A wrongful death suit is a legal action brought by the survivors of a person who has died due to the fault of another person or entity. This may include deaths caused by medical malpractice, car accidents, defective products, or other types of negligence or wrongdoing. The purpose of a wrongful death suit is to hold the responsible party accountable for their actions and to seek compensation for the losses suffered by the survivors as a result of the death.

In other cases, the deceased may suffer injuries, but it does not result in their immediate death. If the victim had survived, they would have had a claim under personal injury under Louisiana law. When the victim dies, the claim still stands, and the survivors can pursue a survival action alongside a wrongful death action.

The at fault party in a wrongful death case can be natural people or juridical persons, such as companies or organizations.

Difference between wrongful death and homicide prosecution.

It’s important to note wrongful death suits are different from a homicide prosecution, which is a criminal case. A wrongful death claim is a civil claim where the defendant’s liability is expressed in financial terms – if they are found liable, they may be required to pay compensation to the plaintiffs. In a homicide prosecution, the defendant may be sentenced to prison or jail time, fines, or probation if they are found guilty of causing the deceased’s death.

Causes of wrongful death

The leading cause of wrongful death is negligence. Negligence occurs when a person or an entity acts carelessly or fails to do that which is expected of them. A wrongful death suit can be filed under any of the circumstances listed below:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Car accidents
  • Driving under the influence collisions (DUIs)
  • Defective products
  • Construction accidents
  • Premises liability, e.g., slipping

What must be demonstrated in order to establish a wrongful death claim?

  1. Negligence – Adequate proof that a person failed to take reasonable care to the required standard.
  2. Breach of duty – A successful case needs to prove that the negligent party was supposed to conduct an act in a particular manner, and if they had acted that way, no harm would have been done.
  3. Causation – Proof that the negligent acts of a person resulted in the death of the deceased.
  4. Damages – Proof of quantifiable damages suffered by the plaintiffs as a result of the death of the deceased, say burial expenses.

Who can file a wrongful death suit in Louisiana?

The death of a loved one due to negligence is a painful and traumatic event to survivors, and everyone may wish to file a wrongful death suit for justice to be done to the deceased loved ones. However, this is not the case, as only specific people can file a wrongful death suit in Louisiana. Under the Louisiana Civil Code, persons who can file wrongful death suits are:

  • Spouse
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Grandparents

The grandfather or grandmother of the deceased might file a wrongful death suit if the deceased left no surviving spouse or children.

  • Brothers and sisters of the deceased.

They may file a wrongful death action in a case where the deceased left no surviving spouses or children.

The civil code specifies that parents who abandoned the deceased before they attained adulthood will not be considered survivors and thus cannot file a wrongful death claim.

The fiancée, engaged partners, and significant others have no right to file a wrongful death suit in Louisiana. This is the letter of the law not only in Louisiana but in many other states.

The relationship between the deceased and the survivor ought not to be biological. Adoption creates the same legal relationship as would a biological relationship. If, in any case, it is discovered a survivor was involved in the death of the deceased, they will not benefit from the compensation for the wrongful death.

When is the right time to take legal action?

The Statute of Limitations limits the time frame within which the wrongful death survivors may file a wrongful death suit. In Louisiana, survivors have one year to file a wrongful death claim. This means that the suit may be filed anytime within one year after the occurrence of the death. Under most circumstances, the survivors lose the right to file a wrongful death claim for that particular case if they fail to file the claim within the year. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, so it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as possible in order to determine the best course of action.

Damages awarded for wrongful death cases in Louisiana

Wrongful Death Law

In a wrongful death suit, the survivors may be able to seek a wide range of damages. These may include economic damages and  non-economic damage. The specific damages that are available will depend on the circumstances of the case and the losses suffered by the survivors. Common forms of damages awarded under wrongful death cases in Louisiana include:

  • Punitive damages

The survivors may be awarded punitive damages in cases of gross negligence that resulted in the death of their loved one. The role of punitive damages is to offer some form of retribution to the survivors of the deceased.

  • Economic loss damages

These are financial losses attributable to the death of the deceased. They include:

  1. Loss of future income
  2. Lost inheritance because of unforeseen death
  3. Medical and  funeral costs because of the death
  4. Loss of retirement benefits and medical cover.
  • Non-economic loss damages

They are losses that cannot be quantified in monetary terms. They include:

  1. Loss of companionship of the deceased.
  2. Emotional trauma, pain and suffering of survivors.
  3. Loss of enjoyment of life.
  4. Loss of support and comfort

Only survivors are eligible for damages in a case of wrongful death.

Maximum damages that a court can award

Louisiana law states that the maximum amount of damages recoverable against the state and political subdivisions for a wrongful death claim on one person is five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000). This cap applies  regardless of the number of lawsuits filed for that person’s death. The compensation is to cover all claims and derivative claims such as loss of income, medical care, loss of support, loss of future earnings etc.

Conclusion

Filing a wrongful death suit in Louisiana can be a complex and emotional process. It’s important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help you understand your rights and options and guide you through the legal process.

If you are trying to file a wrongful death suit, please contact the Charbonnet Law Firm, LLC online, or call our office at (504) 294-5094.

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