Losing a loved one to someone else’s negligence is never easy, and nothing can replace what you’ve lost. Time will give you the strength to heal, but what happens when you have medical bills and funeral expenses left over that you can’t afford? Family members of deceased victims should not be left with familial and financial losses. So, who can sue for wrongful death after someone passes away? This blog explores the nuances of filing wrongful death claims in Michigan.
If you have lost a loved one due to a car accident, medical malpractice, or other form of negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim in Michigan. A Michigan wrongful death attorney with Lipton Law can file a wrongful death suit on your behalf and fight for the compensation you deserve. If you’ve already lost a family member, you shouldn’t lose money on top of that. To schedule a free consultation about your case, please call our office at 248-557-1688 today.
What Is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Most states describe wrongful death claims similarly, but the exact wording is often nuanced and unique from state to state. Even small differences can change the way a wrongful death case is handled. In Michigan, wrongful death is described in the following way.
“Death by wrongful act, neglect, or fault of another…”Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.2922
This death can occur due to injuries caused by the defendant’s negligent actions. To file a claim, the deceased person must have been able to file a personal injury claim had they survived. (Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.2922)
Wrongful death claims can also arise from any “wrongful or negligent act resulting in miscarriage, stillbirth, or physical injury to or the death of the embryo or fetus.” However, this rule does not apply to the following cases. (Michigan Compiled Laws Section 600.2922a)
- Actions taken by the pregnant person
- Physicians or other licensed health professionals acting within the scope of their practice, with the pregnant person’s consent or the consent of someone who can legally consent on behalf of the pregnant person
- During the lawful administration, dispensation, or prescription of medication
If you are unsure if you have a valid wrongful death claim, an experienced wrongful death attorney with our firm can advise you of the best steps to take in a free consultation.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit vs Personal Injury Lawsuit
While wrongful death suits and personal injury suits are somewhat related, they are different types of civil claims. The main difference between a wrongful death claim and a personal injury claim is who can actually file the claim. In a personal injury case, the injured person files the claim. In a wrongful death case, the surviving family members or representatives of the deceased person’s estate file a claim.
The two case types are related in a very specific way. To have a wrongful death lawsuit, the deceased person must have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit if they survived. Simply put, a potential personal injury case that results in the victim’s death is a wrongful death case.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits vs Survival Actions
Wrongful death lawsuits are also similar to survival actions, as they have only one main difference. Survival actions are brought by a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. Wrongful death cases are brought by surviving relatives. Thus, the only difference is who files the claim.
Is Wrongful Death a Civil or Criminal Claim?
Technically, actions that result in wrongful death can be prosecuted both as civil and criminal cases. Criminal cases arise when the responsible party violates one or more laws. Unlike in a wrongful death lawsuit, only the government can criminally charge defendants. If the defendant is found guilty in a criminal case, they will face criminal penalties, possibly prison.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the goal is to seek a wrongful death settlement to compensate surviving family members or representatives of the deceased’s estate. When someone dies from someone else’s negligence, their family members may be left with mountains of medical bills and funeral expenses. A wrongful death action is one way the family can seek compensation for their financial and intangible losses.
What Are the Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
According to wrongful death statutes in Michigan, claimants must show the following elements to have a successful wrongful death lawsuit.
- Death of a person
- The death was caused by someone else’s negligence or actions intended to cause harm
- Surviving spouse, child, or other family members have suffered monetary losses as a result of the death
- The defendant owed the victim a duty of care, which they breached with their negligent actions
If you can prove the above elements and provide strong evidence, you should be able to secure wrongful death damages for your case. Working with a wrongful death attorney can give you the edge you need in your case to get the compensation you deserve.
Types of Wrongful Death Cases
A wrongful death lawsuit can arise from many case types, as long as the elements of a wrongful death case are present. Examples of wrongful death claim types include the following.
- Car accident/truck accident cases
- Medical malpractice cases
- Workplace accident cases
- Product liability cases
- Premises liability cases
- Toxic exposure cases
- Other wrongful actions that result in someone’s death
If you are unsure of whether you have a valid wrongful death suit, speaking with a top personal injury lawyer in Michigan can help illuminate your legal options. We understand this is a difficult time, and we will do everything we can to take the weight off your shoulders.
What Are the Most Common Wrongful Death Causes in Michigan?
Although many case types can lead to a wrongful death action, some are more common than others. The most common causes of wrongful deaths in Michigan include the following.
- Motor vehicle accidents: Auto accidents are by far the most common form of wrongful death case we see in Michigan. This includes drunk driving, distracted driving, and impaired driving cases. To break it down further, the most common auto accident cases that lead to wrongful death are car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, and pedestrian accidents.
- Medical malpractice: Healthcare professionals owe a certain duty of care to their patients, and they may be held liable for injuries or deaths that occur if they breach that duty. Examples of medical malpractice include surgical errors, medication errors, anesthesia errors, birth injuries, delayed diagnosis, emergency room errors, and more.
- Product liability: If someone dies from a defective product, this can result in a wrongful death claim. Examples of wrongful death cases from defective products include failure to warn, design defects, and manufacturing defects.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Michigan?
Michigan law outlines the parties who may file a wrongful death lawsuit. According to Section 600.2922 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, the following parties may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
- Immediate family members, such as spouses, children, parents, siblings, or grandparents. Some cases permit more distant family members, such as aunts and uncles, to file a wrongful death claim.
- If the deceased person left a will, anyone named as an heir to the decedent’s estate might be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. It is in their best interest to hire an attorney to support their claim.
- A personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Before any claim can be filed by any party, one family member must be named as the personal representative for the decedent’s estate. In general, the family decides who takes on this role. This representative will work with the attorney throughout the wrongful death case.
Can a Family Member Sue for Wrongful Death?
Yes. The Michigan Compiled Laws state that the following family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased family member.
- Children of the deceased’s spouse
- Heirs named in the decedent’s will
Who Is Entitled to Wrongful Death Benefits?
The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate family members of the deceased for costs they incurred due to their loved one’s death. Generally, the benefits from these cases are paid out to a surviving spouse, surviving children, and other family members. However, any party who could file the claim could potentially receive compensation.
How to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Michigan
The first step is to speak with an experienced attorney about your situation. They can take the weight of handling a wrongful death claim off your shoulders and guide you through the process. Only the personal representative of the deceased person may file a claim, so the local probate court must first appoint this person. Next, the representative initiates the lawsuit and notifies all parties who may be entitled to compensation.
Who Can You Sue for Wrongful Death in Michigan?
The personal representative in the case can file a lawsuit against the parties who share fault for their loved one’s death. For example, if their loved one died in a car accident, they could sue the at-fault driver. If they died due to a defective product, the representative could file a claim against the product manufacturer. Speak with your attorney to determine who you can recover compensation from.
What Is the Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Michigan?
Michigan’s Wrongful Death Act does not specify a statute of limitations. However, the underlying cause of wrongful death cases is negligence. Claimants can file a claim up to three years after the date of their loved one’s death. Only a few exceptions exist that may extend this time limit. While you don’t have to file your claim right away, the court will not look favorably on your case if you wait until time is almost up to file. We strongly recommend speaking with an attorney as soon as possible to avoid missing your filing deadline.
What Damages Can You Claim in Wrongful Death Lawsuits?
Because of the nature of wrongful death cases, family members are often left with expensive losses, such as medical and funeral expenses. In a successful wrongful death suit, you may be able to collect the following types of financial compensation.
- Medical bills
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Loss of financial support
- Lost inheritance
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
In rare cases, families may recover compensation through punitive damages. Punitive damages only apply in cases where the defendant’s behavior was intentional or particularly heinous. They aim to both punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in that same behavior in the future.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out in Michigan?
The deceased’s personal representative must obtain permission from the court before they accept any wrongful death settlement. Michigan courts allow the distribution of recoveries to the estate, as well as those who suffered damages from the decedent’s death. Once a settlement or jury verdict is reached, the estate’s representative must file a motion with the court, asking for permission to distribute compensation.
Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable in Michigan?
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), most economic and non-economic damages awarded in wrongful death cases are not taxable. This is because those damages are direct compensation for their losses. However, punitive damages are usually taxable.
Anything that the IRS considers to be income is taxable. Unless the family recovers more than they lost, their compensation should not be taxed. Punitive damages are extra awards, which is why they are subject to taxation.
Do You Need a Michigan Wrongful Death Lawyer?
If you have lost a loved one to another person’s negligence, it is in your best interest to speak with a lawyer about your case. Wrongful death cases are often very contentious and complicated. Having legal counsel at your side will not only take a heavy weight off your shoulders, but it will also give you a better chance of success in your claim. While we focus your case, you can focus on properly mourning what you’ve lost.
Contact Lipton Law Today for a Free Consultation
Surviving family members in wrongful death claims are often saddled with expensive medical bills, funeral costs, and other burdensome expenses after their loved one passes. If you find yourself in this situation, the Michigan wrongful death attorneys at Lipton Law are here for you. To schedule a free consultation with us, please call our office at 248-557-1688 today.