Losing a loved one is always painful. These types of losses can be particularly devastating when they result from circumstances that could have been avoided. Under Michigan law, a wrongful death is one caused by the negligence of another individual.
Michigan’s wrongful death statute allows the deceased individual’s loved ones or immediate family to file a civil lawsuit to pursue compensation for their loss. At White Law PLLC, we have helped many clients recover compensation after losing a loved one due to wrongful death.
Who Carries the Burden of Proof?
In a Michigan wrongful death case, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. This means that the plaintiff must gather and present evidence showing the defendant’s negligence.
For example, if an individual died due to a surgery gone bad, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility to prove that their death was a direct result of the surgical error, not because of a naturally occurring complication.
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Four Elements to Establish in a Wrongful Death Claim
Typically, four elements must be established for a wrongful death case to be proven in favor of the plaintiff. These elements are:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
Duty of Care
As in any personal injury case, the plaintiff must first prove that the defendant had a duty of care to the decedent. This means that the defendant had a duty to protect the best interests and well-being of the decedent during the accident.
For example, motorists have a duty of care to follow laws while driving. Failing to abide by said laws is considered a breach of their duty.
Breach of Duty
Once the duty of care has been established, it is then the plaintiff’s responsibility to present how that duty has been breached. For example, if the death was caused by an auto collision, the plaintiff could show that the driver was texting during the time of the accident, which was the reason the accident occurred.
After proving that a breach of duty occurred, the defendant must then link the breach of duty directly to the decedent’s death. Using the previous example, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the defendant’s texting was the direct cause of the accident, ultimately leading to fatal injuries.
Lastly, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered damages. In a wrongful death case, many damages are clearly evident and easy to prove, while others can be a bit more challenging. Common damages in a wrongful death case include:
- Medical expenses incurred before your loved one passed
- Funeral and burial costs
- Lost income the deceased likely would have earned over their lifetime
- Lost wages from work you missed as a result of the death
- Diminished quality of life
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of companionship
- Punitive damages
Be Sure To File Your Lawsuit on Time
When building a wrongful death case, it is critical to be mindful of the statute of limitations. In Michigan, family members of the deceased have three years to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party. While it is important to ensure you gather all the evidence needed to prove your wrongful death claim, you need to act quickly, so you don’t miss this deadline.
If you fail to file your wrongful death lawsuit on time, you could find that you are unable to recover compensation for the death of your loved one. However, you should also note that the specifics of your case can either lengthen or shorten the amount of time you have to file.
An experienced attorney can help you identify if there are any alterations to the statute of limitations with your case.
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An Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help
While filing a lawsuit is unlikely to be the first thing on your mind after you lose a loved one, recovering compensation can be critical when attempting to rebuild your life. Beyond the pain and grief you are experiencing, you will be faced with significant economic challenges. This is especially true if the deceased was the primary earner for your household.
Wrongful death cases are often quite complex. Attempting to prove all the necessary elements to recover compensation on your own can be incredibly difficult. Fortunately, an experienced wrongful death lawyer in Michigan can help. If you lost a loved one due to a wrongful death, it is critical to find an attorney with experience and a proven track record.
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