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Wrongful Death

Wrongful Death claims are usually brought by the estate of a person who was killed due to fault of another. The most common plaintiffs are the surviving spouse or the children of the deceased. The wrongful death laws differ from state to state. Generally, the elements are the same and include a death of a human being which was caused either by negligence or the intent to harm. The surviving family members usually need to be suffering a monetary injury as a result of the death. A wrongful death lawsuit often ties in with other personal injury lawsuits including vehicle accidents or medical malpractice.


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When the police let someone off with a warning, and that person ends up causing harm, are the police liable for not doing their jobs? This question is often the center of much heated debate.

For example, the parents of Toni Anderson, a deceased 20-year-old college sophomore, are reportedly contemplating a lawsuit over an officer's failure to arrest their daughter for DUI in early 2017. Toni was pulled over while clearly intoxicated. Rather than being arrested for DUI, she was told to go get some rest. Unfortunately, Toni crashed her car into a river and drowned. It took authorities nearly two months to find her.

One of the worst things a person can experience is the loss of a loved one. When that loss is due to the negligence of a medical professional or provider, a wrongful death case against them may be possible.

Although it may seem crass or disrespectful to even think about the legal consequences after the loss of a loved one or family member, the law requires individuals to act in a timely fashion. Particularly when the cause of death is related to potential medical malpractice, rather than ordinary negligence or another attributable cause, such as assault, cases must adhere to strict deadlines and filing requirements.

The mother of Philando Castile has settled the wrongful death case stemming from the tragic slaying of her son. The $2.995 million settlement will allow the case to get out of the media spotlight and avoid the deeper probing of a civil murder trial, assuming it gains approval of the court. It will also allow the family to move on more quickly and begin making an impact through the Philando Castile Foundation. The foundation was set up in his honor to aid victims of gun violence and police violence.

Despite the fact that the criminal justice system failed to convict the officer that fired seven rounds into Mr. Castile, quick settlements such as these tend to be viewed as a victory for victims. This is particularly true when the amounts are this large and announced publicly.

The Sigma Nu fraternity on University of Nevada Reno's campus has been sued due to an alleged hazing death that occurred last year. Along with the fraternity organization itself, the housing organizer and several fraternity members have been named in the lawsuit filed by the deceased's parents.

The parents of Ryan Abele filed the wrongful death suit alleging their son was forced to drink excessively, then suffered a life-ending fall down a flight of stairs at the fraternity house the following morning. His death allegedly occurred as a result of hazing incidents that required him to drink excessively and clean the fraternity house after a party.

The parents of a deceased 16-year-old high school student in Chicago have sued the police, school, and individually involved personnel, as a result of their son's suicide. Corey Walgren jumped from the fifth floor of a parking garage after being interrogated by the school's police liaison and school's dean regarding an alleged crime.

It is alleged that Corey was threatened with possession and distribution of child pornography charges, and told he would have to register on the sex offender registry, while being interrogated at school. After the interrogation ended, while his mother was en route to pick him up from school, Corey walked out of the school's office and into a downtown Naperville parking garage, where he climbed to the fifth floor and jumped. He did not pass until later that day.

On December 1, 2016, Lindsey Rietveld was shopping at the Walmart store where she worked in Pella, Iowa, when a Ford F-150 pickup truck came crashing through the front door of the store. The truck struck and killed Ms. Rietveld and two others. As a result of the fatal crash, Rietveld's estate has filed a lawsuit against Walmart, the driver of the truck, and the architectural designer of the front of the store. The lawsuit claims the lack of barriers is to blame for the wrongful death.

The driver of the truck told police that he choked on a sip of coffee, passed out, and woke up after crashing through the front of the store. As a result of suffering the medical emergency, the driver was not charged criminally.

Wrongful death lawsuits allow surviving spouses and family to recover financially when a spouse or family member dies due to the negligence or intentional act of another. Wrongful death laws will vary from state to state, but will typically only allow immediate family members, or next of kin, to file the claim. This often results in unmarried individuals being unable to recover for wrongful death claims.

The common exception to this involves states that allow registered domestic partners, which used to be common for same-sex couples prior the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage. However, frequently, older couples will register as domestic partners rather than re-marry after a divorce, or a prior spouse died, for a wide variety of social and economic reasons.

In 2013, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an unsecured brick wall on a demolition site collapsed onto the adjacent Salvation Army store. The three to four story brick wall crushed the store, killed seven individuals, and injured 12 others, affecting a total of 19 families. A mass injury, wrongful death lawsuit filed in response concluded earlier this year.

The victims were awarded $227 million by a settlement in February, after a 17-week long trial, while the jury was still deliberating. The jury found the Salvation Army, as well as the demolition site's owner, and the architect and contractor doing the demolition, liable for the collapse, deaths, and injuries. Of the $227 million, $200 million will be paid by the Salvation Army, while the remainder will be paid by the demolition site's owner. However, none of the victims or families have been paid yet as the damages were not apportioned.

It may surprise you to learn that Congress is now considering a bill that would require cruise ship companies to report crimes and death on their vessels, even if it's only surprising to learn that cruise ship operators weren't already contacting authorities if a passenger was robbed, assaulted, or died at sea.

It may also surprise you to learn a similar bill has been floating around the federal legislature since 2013, and has yet to be passed. So will the most recent version fare any better? And who should be liable for deaths on the high seas?

The wife of deceased triathlete Jared Bynum was recently awarded $4 million in the wrongful death lawsuit stemming from his fatal bicycle accident in 2012. The case was filed against both the motorist that struck and killed her husband as well as the developer of the highway.

While the driver alleged that the sun was in their eyes, the developer, with the support of public investigators, claimed that Mr. Bynum should never have been on the roadway. Fortunately for the widow of the deceased, a jury didn't find these arguments convincing enough. Though the developer entity was not found liable, the jury indicated that driver was liable for the accident, and the developer's engineer was liable for the lack of signage.