Accidental Death Lawyers in Utah
Wrongful death happens when a person dies because of the negligence or misconduct of another. Electrical accidents, medical malpractice, spinal cord injuries, and auto accidents are all common causes. Find out below how Siegfried & Jensen’s accident attorneys can help you.
Utah Wrongful Death Lawyer
Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence is one of the most painful experiences anyone can go through. The most devastating scenarios involve the loss of a child and the loss of the primary breadwinner. Losing a child can cause severe emotional distress and overwhelming grief that some parents never recover from. Meanwhile, the loss of a breadwinner can trigger financial crises that take generations to overcome.
If you have recently lost a loved one, you might wonder whether your case is eligible for compensation. Only an experienced attorney can make that decision after reviewing your case. However, there is some basic information to get you started on your search for justice.
What Is a Wrongful Death Case?
Utah defines this as a death caused by someone else’s negligence or deliberate and malicious actions. Your attorney might need to determine whether the person would have had a personal injury case had he or she not passed away. If the answer is yes, then qualifying family members surviving that person likely have a claim for a wrongful death suit.
For example, if your loved died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver, you might be able to sue the driver for damages. If an abusive partner took your loved one’s life, you might be able to sue the assailant for wrongful death. You might also have the opportunity to press criminal charges, but this occurs separately from the civil case.
How Do I Know Whether Negligence Played a Role?
To file a winning wrongful death claim, you must show that the defendant’s actions fell below the standard of care. In other words, you will need to show that the defendant did not act as a reasonable person would have under the same or similar circumstances.
For example, if a drunk driver hit your loved one, you might be able to show that the driver should have known not to get behind the wheel after drinking. If your loved one died in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, you could show that the driver should have been paying attention to the road instead of looking at the phone.
However, some cases might involve more thorough investigations. Medical malpractice cases, for example, will require a close look at what happened. Due to privacy concerns and other issues, doctors generally do not film surgeries and other medical procedures. Consequently, lawyers might have difficulty proving what happened and the connection between these actions and the person’s death.
Even when negligence is apparent, your attorney’s ability to present a strong case determines the final number. It could mean the difference between a compensation value of $50,000 or $5 million.
What If My Loved One Has Some Partial Blame for the Incident?
It is important to note that Utah uses a comparative negligence standard in wrongful death cases. This means that even if your loved one was partially to blame for the incident, you might still be able to recover compensation. However, any award you receive will be reduced by your loved one’s degree of fault and there is a cutoff point of 50%.
For example, let’s say your loved one was involved in a car accident. The other driver ran a red light, but your loved one was speeding at the time of the collision. The jury awards 20% of the blame to your loved ones for the accident. If you are awarded $100,000 in damages, that compensation decreases by 20%. Consequently, you receive $80,000.
What Are Some Common Types of Damages?
In Utah, two types of compensation exist in wrongful death cases: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages reimburse the victim’s family for financial losses related to the death. These might include funeral expenses, lost income and medical bills.
Non-economic damages compensate the victim’s family for intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of companionship.
In some cases, the judge might also award punitive damages. Punitive damages can add six figures or more to a case and reflect the level of gross negligence exhibited by the responsible party.
The compensation you receive depends on several factors, including the severity of your losses, the defendant’s degree of negligence and the strength of your legal team. An experienced wrongful death attorney can investigate your case and help you pursue the maximum compensation available.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
In Utah, the statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is four years. That means you must file a claim four years from the day your loved one died. The court will likely bar you from pursuing compensation if you do not file within this time frame.
This can seem like a long time, but it is essential to remember that wrongful death claims can be complex. It might take months or even years to build a strong case. Consequently, speaking with an attorney as soon as possible after your loved one’s death is essential.
What Are the Steps for Filing a Claim?
Ideally, you hire an experienced attorney to take ownership of the process. However, knowing the basic steps can help you better track progress on your case. Note that each situation is different, so these represent only general steps your attorney might take:
- Investigate the incident.
- Get expert opinions.
- Build a strong case.
- File a claim with the insurance company.
- Negotiate with the insurance company.
- If negotiations fail, your attorney might proceed with a lawsuit.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Utah?
Only certain family members are eligible to file a Utah wrongful death lawsuit. Your attorney can confirm who can file a suit, including who can represent the interests of a minor. These are the persons Utah typically recognizes as eligible for filing a wrongful death suit:
- The surviving spouse
- The surviving children
- The victim’s parents, if the victim was unmarried and over 18 years old
Note that stepparents, adopted children and distant relatives are often not eligible to bring a wrongful death suit in Utah. If you are unsure whether you have standing to file a claim, your best course of action is to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney.
Who Do I File a Wrongful Death Claim Against?
Few people realize this question’s importance until they consider a lawsuit. Then, it becomes unclear who to hold responsible. For example, a drunk driver who runs a red light likely has an insurance company representing him or her. Similarly, do you sue a doctor for a medical malpractice case or do you sue the hospital? Both of these entities also likely carry liability insurance to cover such cases.
In some cases, filing a wrongful death claim against more than one party might make sense. For example, if your loved one died in a car accident, you might sue both the driver and the driver’s employer. If your loved one died due to medical malpractice, you might sue both the doctor and the hospital.
A skilled wrongful death attorney can help you determine who is liable for your loved one’s death. Then, they will work with you to hold the right entities accountable.
How Can I Protect My Rights After a Loved One’s Death?
Taking immediate action is critical to how your case progresses. If you wait too long, you might miss the deadline for filing a wrongful death claim. Additionally, evidence can disappear and memories can fade over time. Some witnesses might also move away or no longer feel willing to testify now that time has passed.
You can do several things to protect your rights and give yourself the best chance of success. Note that these do not constitute legal advice. Only your attorney can advise you on how to move forward. These are some of the general steps people take:
- Contact an experienced wrongful death attorney. Your lawyer can guide you through the claims process and help you avoid making mistakes that could jeopardize your case.
- Preserve all evidence related to your case. This might include medical records, police reports, witness statements and anything else that could be relevant to your claim.
- Do not speak to insurance adjusters or other representatives from the defendant’s insurance company without guidance from an attorney. These individuals are not your friends and their interests do not align with yours.
- Do not speak to the media until you have received guidance from your attorney. Even the most minor discrepancies might come back to haunt you in court.
- Get help from a grief counselor or therapist. This can be an emotionally trying time and it is crucial to have someone to talk to who can help you cope with your loss.
How Do I Find an Experienced Utah Wrongful Death Lawyer?
Finding an experienced personal injury lawyer is relatively easy in Utah. The hard part is finding a lawyer with a strong winning record and whose team will put you first. In the past three decades of serving Utahans, our team at Siegfried and Jensen has recovered more than $1.2 billion for our clients. What can we accomplish for you? Contact our team to get started with a free case evaluation.
Siegfried and Jensen’s Utah-based wrongful death attorneys are here to help.
Surviving family members face many problems, even hardship, after a wrongful death:
- How do you pay bills without the income of the deceased, especially if they were the primary breadwinner? Will you lose your home?
- How do you do all of the things the deceased did like car maintenance, housework, yard work, house repair, child care, or elder care?
- How do you move forward with a life you could not have prepared for?
- How do you cope with the sudden stress of a major life-change that affects everyone and everything in your family?
Get help from lawyers who will fight for you
No one can undo your loss or change what happened, but it’s still important to hold the wrongdoer accountable for the hurt they caused. As a survivor, you have a right to monetary compensation for lost income, medical bills, funeral bills, loss of benefits, loss of inheritance, and pain and suffering. Our experienced wrongful death lawyers will fight to make sure you and your family are treated fairly.
Finding the Right Wrongful Death Attorney in Salt Lake City
Siegfried and Jensen is your best choice for experienced wrongful death lawyers. When you team up with us, we’ll be there for you:
- We’ll answer your questions and address your concerns throughout the entire process.
- We’ll pull together the information needed to build your case, including medical records, accident reports, insurance policies, expert testimony, etc.
- We’ll work to get you what you need to adapt to your new life.
- We’ll make sure that everybody plays by the rules and treats you fairly.
Contact us today for a free, no-pressure consultation or for more information. We’re here for you.