How to File a Wrongful Death Claim

When someone dies through the negligence or intentional conduct of another party, the surviving family members of the deceased may have the right to obtain compensation through a concept known as “wrongful death.” It exists through laws enacted in each state that hold responsible agencies of the government, individuals, businesses, and organizations when their negligent or intentional actions cause a person to die.

Understanding wrongful death claims can be challenging because of the lack of uniformity in state laws. Some states allow family members to file the claim, but other states, including Oregon, designate a personal representative of the estate of the deceased as the party authorized to make the claim. A closer look at how wrongful death claims work in Oregon may offer some guidance.

What is a wrongful death?

Oregon law identifies the death of a person caused by a wrongful act or omission of another party as a wrongful death, provided that an action for damages could have been brought by the deceased had they lived. Common situations that may give rise to wrongful death claims include:

  • Motor vehicle collisions.
  • Public transportation accidents, including buses, airplanes, and trains.
  • Defective product accidents.
  • Medical malpractice and errors in prescribing medications.
  • Intentional harm, including criminal conduct.
  • Workplace accidents and unsafe or hazardous conditions. 

Success in recovering damages in a wrongful death case depends on the existence of evidence capable of proving that the fault of another party caused someone to die. A thorough investigation by a Bend personal injury attorney into the facts and circumstances of a death is essential in order to identify the cause of the death and the party or parties responsible for it. 

Who files a wrongful death claim? 

Some states permit the filing of a claim for wrongful death by certain members of the family of the deceased, such as the surviving spouse, children, or parents. Oregon designates the personal representative of the deceased as the party authorized to file the claim on behalf of the surviving spouse, children and stepchildren, parents and stepparents, and other family members authorized by law to inherit had the deceased died without leaving a last will and testament.

If the deceased left a will, the personal representative would be the executor designated in it to handle the estate. When a person dies without leaving a will, a court must appoint someone to act on behalf of the deceased to file a wrongful death action. 

How long does the personal representative have to file a claim? 

The statute of limitations sets deadlines for starting a lawsuit against another party. If you do not bring a lawsuit within the time set by the statute of limitations, you lose the right to bring it. 

The statute of limitations to file a claim for wrongful death in Oregon is three years from when the injury causing the death was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered. There are limits to how long a party has to discover the existence of a cause of action for wrongful death, so you should consult with a Bend wrongful death attorney. 

Compensation recoverable through a wrongful death claim

The compensation awarded through a settlement or through a verdict after trial in Oregon may include the following: 

  • Costs associated with medical treatment furnished to the deceased by physicians, hospitals, nursing services, and other medical services.
  • Reasonable costs associated with funeral and burial.
  • Lost wages and other sources of income by the deceased from the date of injury until the date of death.
  • Pain and suffering endured by the deceased from the date of injury until death.
  • Out-of-pocket losses incurred by the estate of the deceased.
  • Just, fair, and reasonable compensation to the spouse, children, stepchildren, parents, and stepparents of the deceased for loss of the companionship, services, comfort, guidance, and financial support of their deceased loved one. 

Depending on the facts of a particular case, a court may award punitive damages, provided that they would have been awarded had the deceased survived the injuries that caused the death. 

Getting help from a Bend personal injury lawyer

The knowledgeable advice and skilled representation of a Bend personal injury lawyer is essential when you experience the death of a loved one caused by the negligence or intentional actions of another party. Working with a lawyer with experience handling wrongful death claims allows you to achieve justice and fair compensation for your loss as allowed under the law.

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