Most of us would like to believe that, when we die, it will be due to natural causes. Whether it’s old age or from an illness we simply could do nothing more about. But the truth is that a distressing amount of people have their lives cut short. By accident, by intention, by negligence. Wrongful deaths, as these kinds of deaths are known, are on the rise. We’ve passed 136,000 deaths a year and that’s just from unintentional causes. Here, we’ll be looking at the shocking facts behind the most common causes of unlawful death and what can be done about it. Many are aware that being put out of work or injured can result in compensation. However, if an accident or intentional action leads to fatal consequences, then justice can be sought in these cases as well.
The kinds of damage wrongful death can do
A lot of people might think that pursuing a wrongful death claim isn’t productive. Some might think there’s little to gain, that it’s more important to mourn. It is more important to mourn, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to ensure you’re not left taking care of the fallout by yourself. Wrongful death can do more than emotional damage. If a caretaker or financial provider is killed, it can also leave a very real economic crisis for the family to take care of, as well. In cases that are particularly egregious, some judges may even pursue punitive damages. These are damages usually ordered when a defendant in a case acted with knowledge and malicious intent.
Some of the risks most commonly known of today are those that happen due to automobile accidents. Collisions, motorcycle crashes, negligent driving, these are the most common causes of wrongful death. In fact, in 2014, there were 29,989 fatal incidents on the roads. Given how often these incidents can lead to more than one death, that put the amount of deaths at 32,675 deaths for the year. Finding who is at fault in an automobile accident largely comes down to state law.
There’s another kind of accident on the road that doesn’t involve automobiles colliding. There are a lot fewer people who ride bicycles than those who drive automobiles. So the statistics for amount of bicyclists killed might seem smaller when you’re looking at numbers alone. When you’re looking at the percentage of risk compared to driving a car, however, in some countries, riding a bike can be up to seventeen times more likely to get you in a fatal accident. Due to the nature of the vehicle, cyclists are also a lot more likely to suffer deaths due to direct injuries to the head. In fact, there is some debate whether or not helmets prevent or exacerbate this issue. While they do pad the head, they also increase its surface area and weight.
We all know that any workplace can be the site of a fatal accident. However, it’s worth noting that some workplaces are significantly more dangerous than others. The United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration shows that, out of all workplace-related deaths, roughly 20% of them happen in the construction and contracting industries. While worker deaths have decreased from 38 a day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2014, that’s still a staggering statistic that so many people die each day in their workplace. The fault lies almost always on the employer, too. If there is evidence that an employee addressed those safety issues with the employer and no action was taken, it can put them even further at fault.
Slips, trips & falls
The most common form of workplace health and safety violation and the most common form of workplace fatality is the risk of falling. Slips, trips, and falls might sound innocuous, but the truth is that they can very easily be fatal if height or head injury is involved. Wrongful death due to slips, trips and falls largely depends on where it happens. If it happened on the property or just outside the property of a business, then it is considered the business’s responsibility. The aged and those at work are the most at risk from fatal consequences to a fall. In fact, since 2005 to 2014, the death rate of older people due to falls has grown almost by a rate of 33%.
Every day, hundreds and thousands of us put ourselves in the care of those were are supposed to trust. Not every health care provider can help us recover as much as we would like. But the majority of them will at least ensure we get the best standards of care we can. When they don’t, it can dangerous and very much fatal for us. While modern medicine has improved dramatically, the application of it hasn’t always. In 2014, the number of deaths due to medical errors hit their record high. Not only due to negligence but due to record and IT errors that led to the wrong decisions being made.
Dangerous drugs & medical devices
We might just get the proper standard of care from our health care professionals, who do everything they can to make sure we have the tools for treatment that we need. While they may be acting with our best interests at heart, sometimes the problem is beyond their knowledge, too. We all know that medicines may have unintended side-effects. That medical devices may cause some changes we weren’t expecting. However, it’s worth noting that many of these side effects may be a lot worse than advertised, or that in some cases, they aren’t included on the bottle at all. Our prescription drugs can be dangerous. Every year, pharmaceutical companies are forced to recall entire lines of drugs if they prove more dangerous than expected.
When it comes to our loved ones, there is also a serious consideration that those in care may be at risk. Whether they’re older loved ones or living with disability, they are vulnerable to those taking care of them. And there has been a long history of negligence and abuse from caregivers. From physical abuse leading to injury or death, or from simple negligence, the denial of the obligation of providing food for instance. It’s important to keep an eye out for signs of abuse to try and prevent such a death, but finding those signs can also help you prove the responsibility of the supposed caregiver, too.
Violent criminal acts
Murder and manslaughter are already huge offenses with large penalties on the defendant if found guilty. But even these crimes can be made into part of a wrongful death case. Everyone deserves some measure of compensation, as well as justice, when an important person has been taken from their life. Especially if that person was financially as well as emotionally vital to them, and even more so if they were taken intentionally by the actions of another. One such case of a wrongful death suit and a murder case is in the case of Jeffery Trevino. Because wrongful death claims are a civil action, while a murder charge is a criminal penalty. Following a fatal criminal incident, these suits aren’t always successful, because the defendant often has no money. Yet, if they can go further, civil suits usually have a higher rate of success. They don’t have the same demands to prove culpability beyond a doubt, for one.
Who can sue?
When pursuing a civil action, it’s important to know whether or not you’re able to sue for a wrongful death, at all. It changes from state to state, but there are a few constants. For one, if you’re financially dependent on the person and legally recognized as so, then you have the ability to go on with an unlawful death suit. A spouse can always go ahead with a suit, as can a parent or a minor when having lost their parent or their own child. States start disagreeing when it comes to siblings, adult children, the parents of adult children or extended family like aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Cases of immunity
There are also instances where the defendant can claim immunity from wrongful death suits. This usually happens in cases where the state government or federal government are involved. There are a lot of states that have relinquished their right to sovereign immunity, so it’s worth checking for your state. There are also cases where even a claim of immunity may not be found to be enough. One such case is that of the town of Boone in 2014. A snowplow operator and the town itself attempted to claim immunity after their alleged negligence contributed to the death of a woman. The claim of immunity was denied, however, eventually leading to a trial and a settlement.
It’s a tragedy when we lose someone before their time and nothing can fill the hole they left. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek justice and compensation for the very real difficulties you’ll face after.