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How wrongful death lawsuits work in Michigan

When a loved one dies due to another person’s negligence, a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate. While  this type of claim has a lot in common with personal injury cases, some aspects may differ significantly.

While no amount of money can make up for what happened, filing a claim may be the only way to hold responsible the people or companies whose negligence went so far as to cause a person’s death. When the victim left behind dependent family members, pursuing this claim can be a matter of vital importance.

What are the grounds for a lawsuit?

As with a personal injury lawsuit, the claimant must show the defendant acted negligently, thus causing the accident that led to death. Negligence can mean various things depending on the type of accident. Generally, negligence means breaching a duty of care owed to the victim. For example, motorists owe a duty to other people on the road to act with reasonable safety and obey traffic laws. Health care providers owe a duty to their patients to act in accordance with industry standards.

Who can file a claim for wrongful death?

After an accident victim passes away, his or her family members start the probate process. The court appoints a personal representative for the estate, who can then take action to begin the wrongful death suit. Michigan’s survival statute also allows the estate to continue some types of litigation the deceased commenced prior to death.

What damages may be available?

A wrongful death suit can seek several types of damages. Typically, the estate will claim compensation for expenses such as medical bills and funeral expenses. There may also be a damages award for pain and suffering the deceased experienced before death. Damages to the survivors may include financial losses that result from the accident victim’s early demise, as well as the loss of companionship, guidance and other emotional benefits.

Distribution of damages awards or settlements in wrongful death cases may involve additional complexities. The applicable law may vary depending on the exact types of compensation the family receives.

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Goethel Engelhardt, PLLC

3049 Miller Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

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