A wrongful death is the most devastating, unexpected thing that can happen to a family. Losing a loved one in preventable circumstances leaves you with more questions than answers. The unexpected and untimely passing of a loved one can cause serious life-long damages to the surviving individuals impacted by the accident. If a loved one has lost their life in an accident, please accept our condolences and know that help is available.

At Hall Law P.A., we are here for families in Minnesota. Our St. Cloud wrongful death attorneys can help you through this difficult time. Discuss your case in detail at no cost or obligation today. Call (800) 292-1979 to see how our St. Cloud wrongful death attorneys can help surviving victims recover compensation for the damages suffered. 

St. Cloud Wrongful Death Legal Resources

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

A wrongful death claim is a civil claim that aims to hold someone responsible for another person’s fatal injury. Your family may have grounds for a wrongful death claim in Minnesota if another person negligently or recklessly caused the victim’s death. Negligence refers to the failure to take the proper care of someone, resulting in harm to that person.

Common examples of negligence in St. Cloud wrongful death lawsuits are driving drunk, an employer failing to maintain a safe workplace, a defective product and a property owner ignoring a hazard. If a person or entity owed your loved one a duty of care, breached this duty and caused the decedent’s fatal injury, your family will have grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in Minnesota.

When Should I Contact an Attorney?

Hiring a lawyer is not only about maximizing the amount of money you receive for your loved one’s death. You are going through an extremely difficult time and deserve some peace of mind. Entrusting your case to an attorney takes the legal burden off your shoulders, allowing you to focus on grieving, healing and spending time with your family. An attorney will be there for you, answering your questions and providing support. Obtaining maximum compensation and justice for your loved one’s death are just added benefits of having an attorney by your side.

What Are Minnesota’s Wrongful Death Laws?

Before you can hold someone accountable for your loved one’s wrongful death, you or your attorney will need to properly navigate Minnesota’s related civil laws. The rules on how, when and why to file a wrongful death claim will differ according to which state you live in. The following three laws are especially important to keep in mind in Minnesota:

  1. Statute of limitations. A time limit, known as the statute of limitations, applies to your right to file. In Minnesota, you must bring your lawsuit within three years of the date of your loved one’s death or you will lose the right to file, with a few exceptions.
  2. Rules on who may file. In Minnesota, parties with the legal right to file for wrongful death are the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, parents, grandparents and siblings. If surviving families do not want to file themselves, the court can appoint a trustee to do so on their behalf.
  3. Damages available. A family in Minnesota may file a wrongful death claim for their own losses as well as those of the deceased person. Available damages include funeral and burial costs, medical treatment, loss of services, mental anguish, and loss of consortium.

Once you hire a Minneapolis wrongful death lawyer from Hall Law P.A., you will not need to worry about navigating Minnesota’s complicated wrongful death laws. Your lawyer will handle the full legal process for you, from beginning to end. Our attorneys have more than 30 years of experience, and know exactly how to handle wrongful death cases.

Survival Actions & Wrongful Deaths

A survival action is a lawsuit separate from a wrongful death lawsuit, but the two are often combined into one claim. The primary difference between the two is their purpose. The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to recover damages for the losses caused by the victim’s death (e.g., funeral and burial expenses, loss of expected income, loss of companionship, etc.). In contrast, a survival action is designed to recover compensation for the losses a loved one suffered before their death. Therefore, survival actions may only be brought if the deceased victim did not die immediately from their injuries. However, the law only requires a short period of survival. 

Another way to view a survival action is similar to a personal injury lawsuit, which the victim would have had the right to file had they survived. As a result, the deceased’s relatives have the right to recover compensation for: 

  • Accident-related medical expenses accrued before death.
  • Lost income up until death.
  • Loss of consortium (loss of love, companionship, assistance, affection, sexual relations, etc.)
  • Conscious pain and suffering, and emotional distress the deceased experienced after the accident and up until their time of death.
  • Attorneys’ fees.
  • Punitive damages if the defendant’s (at-fault party’s) actions were extremely reckless or meant to cause intentional harm.

When awarding pain and suffering damages, the nature, duration, and extent of the victim’s physical pain and suffering will typically be considered along with the deceased’s mental anguish, apprehension, discomfort, or sorrow. Since the victim can no longer testify to their pain and suffering, proving pain and suffering can be challenging. To do so will often require expert testimony on the extent of the injuries and the patient’s state of mind, as well as testimony from friends, family, or eyewitnesses who were present at the accident and after. 

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What Are Common Causes of Wrongful Deaths?

Certain activities are more dangerous than others.  Below are some of the most common causes relating to wrongful death claims. 

Auto Accidents

Accidents involving motor vehicles are the most common causes of wrongful death in the United States. Common causes of auto accidents involve distracted drivers, drivers that are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, road rage incidents and aggressive drivers. 

Truck Accidents

Accidents involving large big rig trucks can cause life-altering injuries. In the most extreme scenarios, truck accidents can result in fatal injuries.  

Medical Malpractice 

During surgeries and medical procedures, malpractice can occur when medical professionals do not provide the necessary required level of care. When this happens and the patient loses their life, a medical malpractice claim may be able to recover damages for the surviving members of a victim’s family. 

Work Related Accidents

Accidents that occur in a professional setting, or that result from exposure resulting from the environments of the job. Individuals exposed to asbestos, chemicals, working in unsafe environments and those that have suffered injuries as a result of faulty equipment. 

Criminal Acts 

Specific members of a family that had one of their loved ones lose their life as a result of a criminal act or malicious intent can file a civil claim. If a person was murdered, certain surviving members of a family can file a wrongful death claim.

How Do Attorneys Prove Negligence in a Wrongful Death Claim?

To be successful in a wrongful death claim requires proof of the at-fault party’s negligence that contributed to the loved one’s death. To establish negligence, an attorney must demonstrate the following four elements:

Duty of Care

The defendant owed the deceased a duty of care—for example, all drivers owe others on the road a duty of care to operate their vehicles safely and adhere to traffic laws.

Breach of Duty

The defendant violated their duty of care by failing to use reasonable care to avoid injuring others—for example, a driver operating a vehicle while intoxicated or speeding through a red light.

Causation

The defendant’s breach of their duty of care directly caused the individual’s death. In other words, the deceased victim would not have died but for the defendant’s actions. For example, had the driver chosen not to drive while intoxicated, they more than likely would not have crashed into the victim’s vehicle, which caused injuries that led to their death. 

Damages

The surviving family suffered losses due to the loss of their loved one (e.g., funeral expenses, medical bills, lost income, loss of companionship, etc.)

The causation element is not always so straightforward and can be the most challenging element to prove. 

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Minnesota?

Compared to other states, Minnesota is slightly different when it comes to who is allowed to file a wrongful death claim. The deceased person’s spouse or next of kin can recover compensation, but they must petition the court to appoint a trustee, who will then pursue the lawsuit. The person to be named the trustee can be almost any competent adult, but most often, it is one of the deceased’s family members. Which next of kin can ask the court to appoint a trustee will depend on who the decedent’s surviving blood relatives are. Here are some common scenarios: 

  • When the deceased was married, without children, the spouse or the deceased’s parents can ask for a trustee to be appointed. 
  • When the deceased was married, with children, the spouse or children can ask for a trustee to be appointed. 
  • If the deceased was not married but has children, a child can ask the court to appoint a trustee. 
  • If the deceased was not married and had no children, either of the deceased’s parents can ask the court to appoint a trustee. 
  • When the deceased was unmarried, had no children, and the parents are deceased, then one of the deceased’s siblings can ask for a trustee to be appointed. 

The appointed trustee will also oversee the distribution of any damages awarded as part of the claim. Hiring an attorney is not a legal requirement, but it is often in the family’s best interests to be represented by one. 

How Are Damages From a Wrongful Death Divided?

In Minnesota, any damages awarded are divided based on a mutual agreement between the deceased’s surviving spouse and next of kin in proportion to each person’s losses. However, if the surviving parties cannot agree, the court will decide. The potential types of compensation that can be awarded include reimbursement for the following types of losses: 

  • Medical bills related to the accident which led to the victim’s death
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Loss of the deceased’s expected income and benefits
  • Loss of services, care, assistance, and protection
  • Loss of companionship, advice, comfort, and guidance 
  • And more

When deciding on a wrongful death award, various factors will be taken into consideration by an insurance company or jury. Those may include the victim’s age, life expectancy, health at the time of their death, the deceased’s past financial contributions, potential future earnings, the severity of the accident, the deceased’s pain and suffering, among others. 

Are Punitive Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Case?

Punitive damages can be available in wrongful death cases in Minnesota, depending on the defendant’s (at-fault party’s) degree of negligence. When the defendant intentionally caused harm or acted with a deliberate disregard for the deceased’s safety, the court may award punitive damages. The claim for punitive damages must be filed separately from the wrongful death lawsuit. After filing a wrongful death claim, your attorney must make a motion to amend the pleadings, alleging that the defendant’s actions warrant punitive damages. 

How Can a Wrongful Death Attorney Help Surviving Victims?

After a wrongful death, the at-fault party will often try to shift blame for the accident onto the victim or another party to avoid liability. A wrongful death attorney will collect solid evidence of negligence to combat this argument and ensure fault falls on the appropriate party. That often involves investigating the accident, gathering documentation such as police and any other accident reports, photos and videos of the accident or aftermath, the deceased’s medical records, eyewitness statements, and consulting experts. In addition to ensuring surviving victims have a solid case, a wrongful death attorney will handle every other aspect of their claim. That includes all communication with the insurance companies, medical bill collectors, and any other party involved. 

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Who Can Be Held Responsible For a Wrongful Death in St. Cloud?

Who can be held responsible will depend on the specific circumstances of your case, but here are some common liable parties. 

Another Individual 

When another person’s negligence contributed to the death of your loved one, they can be held accountable—for example, an at-fault driver, a negligent property owner, criminal offender, etc.

Corporation

When a loved one is killed due to a person’s negligence who was working at the time the accident occurred, their employer may be liable. For example, a trucking company on behalf of a semi-truck driver who caused an accident or a nursing home on behalf of a staff member who neglected or abused the victim.

Medical Providers

When a medical provider, such as a doctor, surgeon, physician, nurse, hospital, or other medical staff member fails to provide the standard of care expected of them and causes the death of a patient, it is considered medical malpractice. When medical negligence results in a patient’s death, you likely have grounds to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the medical provider and/or their employer. 

Government Agency

A wrongful death claim can possibly be made against a government entity if they demonstrated negligence which led to a loved one’s death. For instance, a government agency may be liable for contributing to a preventable fatal car accident caused by the negligence of an employee or a dangerous road condition, such as a missing traffic sign. However, government agencies and employees have special protections against lawsuits in some situations. 

How Much Do Wrongful Death Lawyers Charge?

Many law firms, including Hall Law P.A., take wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. Although you will owe a percentage of your settlement or verdict to your lawyer, we will advance all costs associated with pursuing your claim. If you do not win, there are no fees for our services. As a result, there is no risk to you. On average, surviving family members who hire an attorney secure two to three times more compensation even after legal fees, and we have recovered several seven and eight-figure settlements for injured victims and their loved ones.

Contact Us Today

Wrongful death is a tragedy no family should have to suffer. If you and your loved ones are grieving the loss of a family member related to someone else’s negligence, carelessness, recklessness or intent to harm, do not hesitate to contact us. We will do everything we can to help you, while also, giving your loved one a voice in the civil justice system. Call our St. Cloud office location today at (800) 292-1979 24/7 for your free consultation.