Losing a family member due to another person's fault is always tragic. As an auto accident attorney, the most sensitive aspect of my law practice is helping clients handle the horrors of losing a loved one in a car crash. It is weighty, gut-wrenching work.
For example, our firm recently resolved a case involving the heartbreaking death of a 12-year-old boy on his bicycle caused by a speeding pizza delivery driver. I cannot begin to comprehend how difficult this tragedy has been for his surviving parents and grandparents. Their lives were changed forever in an instant. They never got to say goodbye or watch him grow up to achieve his dream of becoming a police officer. It is so sad.
The sudden loss of a loved one due to another person's fault can leave surviving family members feeling understandably angry, confused, depressed, financially unstable, helpless, and utterly alone. Although the legal system obviously cannot bring back the deceased, a successful wrongful death case could at least help the surviving family members process the pain and get back on their feet by holding the responsible party accountable.
Successful representation in a death case begins with a careful explanation of the legal nature of the claims. Louisiana law recognizes two different actions that arise out of a death cause by another person's fault: (1) survival action, and (2) wrongful death action.
A survival action permits recovery for those damages suffered by the deceased victim from the time of injury to the moment of his or her death. The elements of damages for a survival action are pain and suffering, loss of earnings, and other damages sustained by the victim up to the moment of death such as fright, fear, or mental anguish while the deadly ordeal was in progress.
A wrongful death action, on the other hand, is intended to compensate surviving family members for their suffering and loss after death. The elements of damage for a wrongful death action are loss of love, affection, companionship, and support and funeral expenses.
The following people may bring wrongful death or survival action lawsuits to recover damages sustained as a result of death:
(1) surviving spouse and/or children of the deceased;
(2) surviving father and/or mother of the deceased (if the deceased left no spouse or child surviving);
(3) surviving brothers and/or sisters of the deceased (if the deceased left no spouse, child, or parent surviving); or
(4) surviving grandparents of the deceased (if the deceased left no spouse, child, parent, or sibling surviving).
Neither grandchildren nor other relatives are entitled to recover damages for wrongful death, no matter how close they may have been to the deceased.
In conclusion, although no one can bring back a deceased loved one after unthinkable tragedy, an experienced attorney can help a grieving family get back on its feet by holding the responsible party accountable through wrongful death and survival actions that seek financial security for family members qualified to make those claims.