The untimely death of a loved one is always an emotional and financial struggle. Being continually aware of the fact that the carelessness, negligence or even the recklessness of somebody else caused your family member’s death adds to these issues. Our wrongful death lawyers are compassionate, experienced and highly effective. They’re respected by judges and insurance defense lawyers alike across Montana.
Montana’s Wrongful Death Act
Wrongful death cases in Montana are civil lawsuits as opposed to criminal prosecutions. MT Code section 27-1-513 controls wrongful death cases. It states that “When injuries to and the death of one person is caused by the wrongful act or neglect of another, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate may maintain an action for damages against the person causing the death or, if the person is employed by another person who is responsible for the causing person’s conduct, then also against the other responsible person.”
Who is a Personal Representative?
The personal representative of the decedent might be a husband or wife, a parent, child, brother or sister. If the decedent had a will or living trust, the personal representative designated in the will or the successor trustee in the living trust is likely to be appointed the personal representative in a wrongful death case.
The Burden of Proof
Always keep in mind that a wrongful death case is a civil case. In a criminal case, the defendant must be proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence. That means that the plaintiff’s version of events is more likely true than not true.
Examples of Wrongful Death
Most wrongful death cases that are filed involve the law of negligence. Here are a few examples of wrongful death cases that can involve negligence:
- Motor vehicle accidents. These are the most common type of wrongful death claims.
- Transportation accidents like airplane, train or bus crashes.
- Construction accidents.
- Medical errors, hospital or nursing home negligence.
- Slips, trips and falls.
- Accidents involving dangerous products
Claims and Damages
Unless an accident victim is killed instantly, two types of claims will be brought in a wrongful death case. Both will be brought by the personal representative of the victim. The first claim will be the wrongful death claim itself. Compensation from a successful wrongful death claim will pass to the decedent’s heirs. This usually includes compensation for sorrow, grief, emotional anguish, loss of consortium, loss of guidance and emotional support. The second claim that usually accompanies a wrongful death claim is payable to the estate of the decedent. That’s known as a survivorship claim. For the decedent’s estate to be eligible for damages in a survivorship claim, the decedent needs to have survived his or her final injury for even a short period of time. The estate can be compensated for his or her medical bills, the present value of his or her lost earnings from the date of death to life expectancy, funeral and burial expenses and conscious pain and suffering from the moment of the accident to his or her date of death. In certain cases, punitive damages might be awarded, but those are rarely covered by insurance.
The Statute of Limitations
Like every other state, Montana has set a time limit for the filing of wrongful death and survivorship lawsuits. Pursuant to MT Code section 27-2-204, these lawsuits must be filed within three years of the decedent’s death. In the case of a homicide, 10 years is provided. Take notice that if a wrongful death claim is to be brought against the State of Montana or any of its agencies, written notice of that claim must be filed with State of Montana within 20 days of the date of the injury. In that context, you must act quickly.
Contact a Missoula Wrongful Death Lawyer
The loss of a family member in an accident is a tragedy that you’ll endure for the rest of your life. Nobody can bring that family back either, so the only way to compensate you for your losses is through a settlement or verdict. You may feel numb and paralyzed, but you’ll want to speak with us as soon as possible after the accident that ultimately took your loved one away from you. Contact us as soon as you can after losing a loved one in any accident that you believe was caused by the carelessness and negligence of somebody else. We can arrange for a free consultation and case evaluation with an experienced, effective and compassionate Missoula wrongful death lawyer from our office. We’re going to listen to you closely and answer your questions. After that, we’ll fully advise you on all of your legal options. No cash retainer is necessary to retain us. If we’re retained, we don’t even charge any legal fees unless we obtain a settlement or verdict on behalf of your loved one’s administrator or estate.