Catastrophic Personal Injury and Wrongful Death
We are dedicated to the representation of catastrophically injured individuals and their families. A Catastrophic injury is usually defined as one involving brain damage, neck or spinal cord damage, amputations or severe burns or other permanent injuries. A personal injury case can be based on injuries caused by a wide variety of accidents, such as:
Victims of personal injury are entitled to financial compensation for their past and future medical and property expenses, economic losses, incidental costs caused by the accident, and pain and suffering. “Wrongful Death” is a legal term that refers to situations when a person dies due to the negligence of another. Wrongful Death cases may arise in a as a result of a variety of incidents, including car accidents and medical malpractice. Our goal is to make sure that the survivor and beneficiaries of the victim are compensated for their loss.
Wrongful Death Actions
Wrongful death claims are actions for damages stemming from a decedent’s death due to the negligent action or omission of another. The deceased person’s survivors may bring a wrongful death suit seeking monetary damages to compensate for the loss of their loved one. Some family members may also bring additional claims, depending on the circumstances, for elements such as loss of companionship. Each jurisdiction has its own statute regarding wrongful death claims, and those rules may differ from state to state. For this reason, it is important to speak to an attorney in your jurisdiction who is knowledgeable in wrongful death actions to learn about the laws in your state.
Who Can be the Plaintiff in a Wrongful Death Action?
In some states, wrongful death statutes entitle the decedent’s next of kin to bring a cause of action on their own behalf as a result of damages sustained following the decedent’s death. Other state laws allow family members to bring a wrongful death claim on the decedent’s behalf. These statutes, called survival acts, preserve the rights of the decedent at the moment of his or her death and allow survivors to bring a claim based upon the decedent’s rights, including damages resulting from the actual death itself. Finally, some states recognize both types of lawsuits, but generally have a provision that limits the right of the survivors in order to prevent a double recovery under the two different theories for the same injury.
Different jurisdictions also vary in who may be a plaintiff in wrongful death or survivor actions. Generally, the primary beneficiaries of the deceased individual (spouse and children) are able to bring a claim. In most states, if the deceased did not leave any heirs (spouse, children or parents), there is no one who could be a plaintiff in a wrongful death claim. In a few states, however, distant relatives can become plaintiffs if they were dependent upon the deceased for economic support. Some jurisdictions even allow an executor or administrator of the decedent’s estate to bring a wrongful death action on behalf of the estate. Lastly, in a minority of jurisdictions, the decedent’s domestic partner may be the plaintiff, if the state recognizes common-law marriage or same-sex marriage.
Wrongful Death Litigation
Most wrongful death actions are based on tort theory. Often, it is not necessary that the defendant’s conduct be the sole cause of the death. Even where the defendant’s negligence contributes, with other circumstances, to the decedent’s death, the defendant may be held legally liable and responsible for damages.
After the plaintiff has proven the defendant’s legal liability, he or she must establish the type and amount of damages. In some jurisdictions, the plaintiffs may be able to recover the costs of the deceased’s medical care, funeral expenses, loss of future earnings, the value of the loss of the deceased’s benefits (such as pension benefits or medical and health insurance coverage), loss of consortium and general damages.
The method and manner of calculating damages in a wrongful death action can be complex. Pecuniary loss must be calculated, which may be computed according to the decedent’s life expectancy and work life expectancy. The life expectancy of the beneficiaries and, where necessary, the remaining period of minority of any beneficiaries must also be considered. In calculating the value of the plaintiff’s future loss, not only may the wages of the decedent be considered but the court may also consider the value of past contributions made by the decedent, the decedent’s familial concern, his personal habits and his spending behavior. Due to these complexities, it is important to speak with a personal injury attorney who is knowledgeable in wrongful death claims to answer any questions you may have and help you pursue the best legal options based on the facts of your case.
Neck and Spinal Cord Injuries
Neck and Spinal cord injuries change lives. Victims and their families often must deal with permanent disabilities that lead to significant medical and legal needs. The causes of these neck and spinal cord injuries are widely varied and are frequently the result of another’s negligence-car crashes, falls, and gunshot wounds are just a few. Lawsuits for most spinal cord injuries are brought under negligence, strict liability, and third party liability laws. (Third parties can contribute to an injury; for example, the company that made a faulty seatbelt or tires.)
Brain injury can cause physical, cognitive, social, and vocational changes. Recovery is often a lifelong process of adjustments and accommodations for the injured individual and his or her family. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines a traumatic brain injury as an injury that occurs when a sudden physical assault on the head causes damage to the brain. Traumatic brain injuries can be caused by a variety of accidents, including those involving trains, cars, trucks, and motorcycles. These accidents additionally may cause spinal cord injuries. All brain injuries are not traumatic. Deprivation of oxygen any time during the labor and/or delivery of a baby can cause brain injury and may result in life long disabilities.
Appropriate treatment of a brain injury can involve diagnostic testing, drugs, surgery, and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation, a critical aspect of optimal recovery can be very expensive. For catastrophic injuries, a large team of caregivers may be necessary. It is not uncommon for an injured individual to see a neurologist, neurosurgeon, psychiatrist, neuropsychiatrist, vocational expert, life-care planner, neuro-psychologist, and physical, occupational and speech therapists. In most cases, the lives of the injured individual’s family are completely disrupted as they focus their energies on securing proper medical care.
Amputation is defined as the severing of a body part. Every year over 156,000 people in the United States suffer from some kind of amputation, which range from the loss of a fingertip to the loss of an arm or a leg. Loss of a limb frequently results in significant blood loss, shock, infection, and even death. Amputations usually occur in the course of a traumatic injury:
- Motorcycle, semi or automobile crashes
- Factory or warehouse incidents
- Construction site incidents
- Airplane crashes
- Boating collisions
Some amputations, however, are the result of non-traumatic circumstances, such as medical negligence, or the failure to the treat bed sores of a nursing home resident.
An amputation injury often causes a severe grief reaction in the victim and frequently results in depression. Not only is amputation traumatic, it can be extremely expensive. Artificial limbs (prosthesis) are very expensive and must be replaced every 2-5 years.
The monetary, mental and physical costs of recovering from a burn injury are staggering. According to the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation, in the early nineties there were over 2.4 million reported burn injuries per year in the United States. Of these incidents, over a million resulted in substantial injury. A burn injury can require months, sometimes years of hospitalization, doctors’ visits, and physical therapy and often even require extensive counseling to overcome the mental trauma sustained from suffering a burn injury.
Burn injuries are the second leading cause of accidental death behind automobile crashes. Burns are frequently the direct result of the negligence of another person or company and can result from car crashes, on the job injuries, industrial construction incidents, defective products (product liability), or electrocution and a variety of other tragic circumstances. The source and cause of the fire or accident that caused the burn are crucial determination that forms the bases of a personal injury burn case.