Wrongful death lawsuits are cases in which someone has been killed by another person’s unreasonable or negligent act. These cases can result from car accidents or other types of accidents. And while it’s a devastating time for your entire family, it’s good to be informed about what to do next.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Oregon
What to Do When a Family Member Has Been Killed in an Accident
As soon as possible after the accident, you need to take 2 legal actions:
- Petition the court to appoint a personal representative to represent the victim’s estate. Normally, this is a lawyer. They will distribute the property and pay all the bills.
- If the accident was another person’s fault, immediately consult with and hire a wrongful death attorney to handle this. (Here’s what you need to know to find the right personal injury lawyer for you and your situation.)
How Does a Wrongful Death Settlement Distribution Work?
In a wrongful death lawsuit, these family members are entitled to a settlement distribution, in order of survival:
- The surviving spouse (the shares vary, depending on whether the victim leaves children not shared with their spouse)
- Any surviving children
- Surviving parents
- If present, any surviving step children
- Surviving step parents
- Sometimes others – such as siblings, nieces, nephews and grandparents. However, there is Oregon’s law of “intestate succession” that limits inheritance entitlement. In these cases, it’s best to retain an attorney to help.
How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?
There are a variety of moneys that can be recovered from a wrongful death settlement. They can include:
- Costs incurred for the victim’s medical treatment, burial and memorial services
- Money for the pain and suffering the victim endured before they passed away
- Reimbursement for the income lost due to the victim’s death (in other words – how much earnings the victim would have accumulated over the remainder of their life)
- Money to the victim’s spouse, children, parents, stepchildren, and stepparents because the victim is no longer alive to financially support them
- Reimbursements to the victim family for their loss of a loved one’s emotional support (defined as “loss of the society, companionship and services”)
- Punitive damages the victim would have been entitled to recover from the at-fault party had they lived. For example, if the victim had been killed by a driver under the influence.
How Much Is an Average Wrongful Death Settlement?
The average of a wrongful death settlement can vary greatly. How much money exactly can be recovered depends upon the victim’s age, health, and current and projected income. Other factors are the quality of the victim’s relationship with their relatives – usually the surviving spouse and children – who are entitled a variety of reimbursements.
Determining how much money a wrongful death settlement can net therefore often requires the use of an expert economist.
How Long Do I Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
In Oregon, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within 3 years after the date your family member died, with some exceptions.
How Can a Wrongful Death Claim be Settled?
Wrongful death lawsuits can be settled – but the settlement agreement must be approved by the court.