Wrongful Death

How can an attorney help if a loved one dies because of another person's negligence or wrongful conduct?

Unfortunately, tens of thousands of people in the United States die from unintentional injuries every year.

Losing a loved one can be one of the hardest things you ever have to deal with. When a loved one dies as a result of someone else's negligent or wrongful act, your family will confront financial and emotional challenges that may be overwhelming. In such cases, family members may recover for their loss.

If someone you love died prematurely due to another's negligent or wrongful conduct, Garden City Law will take on the burden of recovering for your loss, and help you find the closure you need during this difficult time.

What is a wrongful death claim?

Wrongful death claims seek to recover damages for surviving family members for the loss of a loved one who died as a result of negligent or wrongful acts. When injuries and death of one person are caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, the personal representative of the decedent's estate may maintain an action for damages against the person who caused the death (and potentially the wrong-doer's employer).

What is the difference between a wrongful death and survivorship claim?

In short, the wrongful death laws allow recovery to persons who suffered as a result of the decedent's death (i.e. loss of consortium, pain, grief, and mental anguish). Survivorship law allows the decedent's estate to recover damages the decedent could have recovered if he/she had not died (i.e., pain and suffering and lost earnings).

What are the causes of a wrongful death?

Wrongful death claims may arise from a variety of causes, including car accidents, defective products, medical malpractice, drunk-driving, fire-arm recklessness, nursing home abuse, and more.

Who recovers wrongful death damages?

Montana law provides there can only be one wrongful death action, which must be asserted by the personal representative of the decedent's estate and include all claims arising out of death or survivorship. Minors may need the assistance of an adult guardian to take a wrongful death suit to court.

Damages awarded in wrongful death causes of action are personal to the decedent's survivors and do not belong to the decedent's estate. Survivors of the decedent who suffer damages may recover (spouses, children, parents, grandparents, siblings, and others).

Recovery for an intestate's wrongful death is not limited to intestate's heirs; rather, damages are paid to survivors without regard to intestate succession statutes. In re Estate of Bennett, 2013 MT 230.

Garden City Law can help you understand your rights and determine your eligibility to file a wrongful death suit.

Who files an action on behalf of the deceased?

The personal representative of the decedent's estate files the lawsuit.

How is a personal representative appointed?

If not appointed by the decedent's will, the closest surviving relative (i.e. spouse, child, or parent) will usually petition and serve as personal representative. If there is a dispute, the probate court will determine the personal representative.

What damages are recoverable for wrongful death?

Montana law broadly authorizes wrongful death damages that are "just" under the circumstances. 27-1-323, MCA. There is no finite list, but damages often include loss of consortium, pain, grief, and mental anguish, and lost monetary contributions the decedent would reasonably have made for support, education, training and care decedent's survivors.

While there is no amount of money that could make up for the loss of a loved one, compensatory damages can relieve some of the burden of funeral, burial, and other expenses.

What are the time limitations for filing a wrongful death action?

The deadline for filing a wrongful death is triggered when all the elements for the claim have accrued, which is usually the time of death. Wrongful death lawsuits can be difficult and emotionally draining, making some individuals hesitant to have the untimely deaths of their loved ones examined in court. Although you are going through a difficult time, it is imperative to file your wrongful death case as soon as possible to ensure accurate and complete investigation of all circumstances, preserve evidence, identify all responsible parties, and protect against claims being barred by the statute of limitations. In Montana, the statutory deadline for wrongful death actions is three years after the decedent's death. After this period expires, wrongful death claims are usually barred.

Garden City Law will take on your burden and do everything possible so you do not suffer further after the unnecessary death of your loved one. Your matter will be handled with compassion while pursuing the maximum recovery you deserve. Contact Garden City Law today for a free and confidential case evaluation.