Losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence or recklessness can be devastating. Families of the deceased often find themselves burdened with financial obligations stemming from such incidents.
Dealing with the loss is already challenging, but it becomes even more difficult when caused by another’s actions. Further, a wrongful death claim resulting from a car accident can result in severe financial strain in the form of expensive medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and more.
Utah law makes it possible for surviving family members to address these financial burdens through wrongful death lawsuits. These claims, often managed by experienced wrongful death lawyers in Utah, allow family members to seek compensation for both economic and non-economic losses.
While nothing can bring back your loved one, pursuing a wrongful death claim can help alleviate some of the financial hardships during this trying time.
Let’s find out more.
What Is a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah?
In Utah, a wrongful death claim is governed by Utah Code section 78B-3-106. This statute defines wrongful death as a fatality resulting from the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of the responsible party, akin to a personal injury claim.
Both wrongful death claims and personal injury claims hinge on actionable injuries. However, there’s a crucial distinction: in a Utah wrongful death claim, the deceased cannot pursue their own lawsuit. Instead, a designated representative must bring the case to court to represent all affected family members.
This raises the vital question of who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. There are benefits of hiring a wrongful death attorney as they can provide valuable guidance through the intricacies of wrongful death laws.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Utah?
In Utah, the wrongful death claim process is governed by specific laws. A Utah wrongful death claim must be filed by either the deceased person’s heirs or the personal representative, often referred to as the “executor,” of the deceased person’s estate.
However, an exception can be made when the deceased person was an adult under guardianship. In such cases, the legal guardian has the right to bring the wrongful death lawsuit to court.
Under Utah law, the eligible “heirs” who can pursue a wrongful death claim include:
- The surviving spouse
- Surviving children (even adoptive ones)
- Surviving parent or parents (even adoptive parents)
- Surviving stepchildren under 18 at the time of the stepparent’s demise and financially dependent on the deceased.
If none of these individuals survive, other blood relatives may also file a claim for wrongful death (Utah Code § 78B-3-105, 2021).
Moreover, when the personal representative or a guardian initiates the wrongful death claim, any awarded damages will go to the deceased’s surviving family members. For legal assistance with Utah wrongful death claims, consult a dedicated wrongful death attorney in Utah.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah?
Utah’s stringent wrongful death laws govern the process of filing a wrongful death claim in Utah. Contrary to a common notion perpetuated by insurance companies, there’s no strict 45-day limit for resolving wrongful death claims.
While personal representatives aren’t obliged to accept any settlement offer immediately, they can choose to do so. It’s advisable for them to engage a knowledgeable wrongful death attorney in Utah promptly.
Of course, the time frames for filing a wrongful death lawsuit vary. In cases involving government entities, claimants have just one year from the date of death to initiate a legal claim. For all other scenarios, there’s a two-year window to file a Utah wrongful death lawsuit.
Delaying filing can jeopardize your case by potentially causing loss of evidence. Therefore, consulting with experienced wrongful death lawyers in Utah is crucial to build a robust case.
How Does a Utah Wrongful Death Claim Work?
A wrongful death lawsuit involves several key steps. Understanding the following fundamentals is crucial:
- Eligibility for Filing a Claim: To initiate a wrongful death lawsuit, you must demonstrate that your loved one’s demise resulted from another person’s actions, causing emotional and financial hardship for your family. Eligibility criteria for filing vary by state.
- Consulting a Utah Personal Injury Lawyer: A knowledgeable and experienced attorney will assess the accident, potential damages, and insurance details. Armed with this information, they conduct a thorough investigation.
- Drafting and Filing the Case: Once evidence is gathered, your lawyer will draft and submit your wrongful death claim in the court. A notification will be sent to the responsible party, who may respond with a settlement offer or denial of liability.
- Pretrial and Negotiation: If a settlement is offered, you and your attorney may negotiate for a fair amount, bringing the wrongful death lawsuit to a conclusion. In case of denial, the case goes to pretrial. Both parties can subpoena evidence and call witnesses. After pretrial motions, a trial date is set.
- Trial Proceedings: During the trial, your lawyer must persuade the jury that the defendant is accountable for your loved one’s death. The jury assesses arguments from both sides and determines whether compensation is warranted. If they rule in your favor, you receive damages.
What Damages Can I Expect?
In a successful wrongful death lawsuit in Utah, the court mandates the defendant to pay “damages,” which encompass a range of losses claimed by the plaintiff, to the deceased person’s family or estate. These are called “compensatory damages.” They’re meant to provide recompense to survivors for various death-related losses including:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Medical expenses linked to the deceased’s final injury
- Lost wages (including future earnings and benefits)
- Loss of potential inheritance for adult decedents
- Pain and suffering endured by the deceased from the time of injury to death
Moreover, they extend to the loss of the deceased’s affection, counsel, and advice.
Punitive damages are rare in wrongful death claims. They don’t serve as compensation, but are a means to penalize intentional or reckless conduct, and discourage similar actions in the future.
Seek guidance from experienced wrongful death lawyers in Utah to navigate these complexities of a wrongful death claim.
Call a Reputed Utah Wrongful Death Attorney for Positive Case Outcomes
Filing a wrongful death claim in Utah can be a challenging and emotionally taxing process. However, this crucial step can offer financial relief and bring about a sense of justice after losing a loved one. A wrongful death lawsuit serves as a powerful tool to hold the accountable party responsible, potentially bringing solace to your family.
When contemplating how to file a wrongful death lawsuit, look no further than Carlson Injury Law. Our dedicated Utah wrongful death lawyers will stand by you to safeguard your rights and secure the compensation you rightfully deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call (801) 845-4577 or fill out our online form.