Wrongful death is a type of lawsuit for fatalities that should have been preventable, but someone acted negligently. If the victim in the situation would have been able to file a personal injury lawsuit had they survived, then their case likely qualifies as wrongful death.

The general structure of a wrongful death claim is that someone dies in an accident, and then their family hires a lawyer and files a claim against the responsible party. Responsibility can get complex, and that’s where a lawyer can help. Multiple parties will be investigated to see who holds fault for the death, and whoever is found at fault will be ordered to pay damages to the victim’s family.

Examples of Wrongful Death in Wisconsin

There are many different causes of death that can happen in Wisconsin. The top three causes of death in Wisconsin in 2020 were heart disease, cancer, and COVID-19. A fatality from disease can potentially lead to a medical malpractice claim, which is a type of wrongful death case, if it’s provable that the healthcare providers made a mistake. Accidents are the fourth leading cause of death in Wisconsin, which ranks fairly average when it comes to unintentional death rates

One of the most common types of accidents nationwide are motor vehicle accidents. There are plenty of dangerous roads in Wisconsin where fatalities occur year round, so there are many wrongful death claims filed following fatal car accidents. These cases are usually easier to prove than medical malpractice claims.

Another situation that can lead to wrongful death claims is falling accidents, such as slip and falls or falls from heights. While some wrongful death claims are filed against individuals, many of these claims are filed against employers after a workplace accident causes a fatality. Claims can also be filed against a manufacturer, for example if a defective product caused a death.

The final type of fatality that can bring a wrongful death claim is an intentional act, such as a violent crime. 

Who Can File a Claim?

Surviving family members are the most common parties who file wrongful death claims. This is normally a spouse, or if no spouse exists, then the children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, or siblings. If the deceased had children under 18, those children will automatically get a portion of the compensation recovered. Wisconsin also allows for a personal representative of the deceased to file a claim as well. This representative, sometimes called the executor, is someone who was chosen to handle the estate of the deceased.

Legal Process

Wisconsin wrongful death claims must be filed within three years of the death. If the death was from a car accident, the time limit to file a claim is only two years.

Once the surviving family member or representative hires a lawyer and files a claim, they will be seeking certain damages. These damages usually consist of medical expenses, funeral expenses, lost wages or inheritance, and loss of companionship. Compensation for loss of companionship is capped at $350,000 for deceased adults, and $500,000 for minors.

Family members can also file a surviving action, which is a separate lawsuit. This would seek damages that the deceased person was entitled to before passing, such as conscious pain and suffering. Survival action compensation is awarded to the victim’s estate, not the family members. Punitive damages cannot be awarded in Wisconsin wrongful death cases.

For help filing a wrongful death claim in Wisconsin, contact a local attorney.