Few things in life are as tragic as losing a loved one suddenly and prematurely to an accident that didn’t have to happen. Dealing with your grief is challenging enough, but you may also be under tremendous stress from the financial impact of your family member’s death. This is especially true when he or she contributed some or all of the income to your family.
Those responsible for an untimely death should face accountability. Their actions might not have been criminal, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t negligent. A wrongful death lawsuit sends a strong message that your family member’s life mattered and negligence is simply not acceptable.
How Does Mississippi Define Wrongful Death?
Under Mississippi Code Section 11-7-13, wrongful death may fall into one of the following three categories:
- A negligent, real, or wrongful act or omission
- Unsafe appliances, machinery, or way of behaving
- Breach of any type of warranty of fitness related to any item intended for consumption by human beings
State law allows those closest to the deceased to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the perpetrators if the case is such that he or she would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit if the accident had not been fatal. It is similar to a personal injury lawsuit with the obvious difference being that the injured person died and someone else must step in to file a claim in his or her name. Product liability can fall under the umbrella of wrongful death lawsuits in addition to wrongful or negligent acts.
Who is Entitled to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Mississippi?
Under the Mississippi Section mentioned above, the following people may sue another person or organization for wrongful death:
- The deceased person’s legal and surviving spouse
- Surviving children or parents of the deceased person
- Surviving brothers and sisters of the deceased person
- A representative of the estate of the deceased person
If the person who wins a wrongful death lawsuit is a spouse and the couple has minor children, the settlement amounts is divided equally between them. A surviving parent or sibling can only file a case if the deceased has no living spouse or children, whether they are minors or adults. In this case, a court will split the settlement amount between the parents and siblings equally.
It’s important for anyone considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit to understand that it is a civil suit and it differs considerably from a criminal case. For starters, this type of lawsuit is filed by a family member of the fatally injured party. In a criminal case, a prosecuting attorney is the one to initiate charges. The other major difference is that liability is only determined in monetary terms. Criminal cases may involve jail time, probation, and other legal punishments.
What Types of Damages Might the Filing Party Receive?
Depending on the category of loss, damages received from a wrongful death case are paid directly to beneficiaries or to the estate of the deceased. The most common types of economic damages include:
- Expenses associated with the funeral and burial
- Medical costs associated with treating the injured person before he or she succumbed to the injuries
- Payment for destroyed or damaged property
The purpose of compensation for economic damages is to pay the final bills related to the deceased person’s estate. Other types of damages are more subjective and paid directly to the successful party in a wrongful death lawsuit. Common examples here include:
- Loss of companionship of the person’s spouse, parent, child, or sibling
- Emotional and physical pain and suffering directly related to the untimely loss of a loved one
- Cash value of the salary and benefits the deceased person would have earned at work if he or she had lived a normal life expectancy
The state may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party if the deceased has no immediate surviving family members, did not have a will, and did not leave instructions for selecting a personal representative. This is known as a survival claim. Proceeds from a survival claim first go to pay off the deceased person’s creditors and final expenses. Anything left over is paid to his or her heirs at law, which means blood relatives.
Mississippi does place caps on non-economic damages in wrongful death lawsuits. Death caused by medical malpractice is capped at $500,000 while death caused by product liability or pharmaceutical claims are capped at one million dollars each. No limit exists on economic damages such as medical bills, funeral expenses, or lost wages.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Mississippi
The time limit for filing a claim for wrongful death depends on how it occurred. You have one year from the date of your loved one’s death if it happened due to assault, battery, or another intentional act of violence committed against him or her. You have three years to file in the case of negligence. If your family member didn’t die from his or her injuries immediately, it’s important not to confuse the date of incident or accident with the actual date of death.
Speak to an Experienced Mississippi Wrongful Death Attorney Today
Although the course of events that caused your loved one’s death may appear obvious to you, determining liability can be a long and complex process. For example, you could be dealing with multiple defendants in a product liability case. If you are dealing with a situation like this, you need strong legal counsel working hard to hold those who are responsible fully accountable.
Take the first step in the process by contacting a skilled and knowledgeable wrongful death attorney in your area.