Most people don’t understand the rules about wrongful death claims because they have never lost a loved one in a situation where such rules apply. In Louisiana, state statutes allow for civil litigation when an individual or business causes the death of someone through negligence or misconduct.
Taking a responsible party to civil court can provide closure for grieving families and may also lead to financial compensation, as the unanticipated death of a close loved one often means significant financial struggles for those left behind. Lawsuits can help replace lost future wages and cover medical or funeral expenses, among other losses.
Family members typically file such lawsuits
In some states, the executor or personal representative of an estate is the party empowered by the law to file a wrongful death lawsuit. However, in Louisiana, the law grants surviving family members that right instead. Those who have the closest family relationship to the deceased are those with the strongest right to file a wrongful death claim.
Surviving spouses and children will often be the ones to bring wrongful death lawsuits. However, not everyone who dies has a spouse or any progeny. When someone dies unmarried and childless, their parents are often in the priority position to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit. If their parents died before they did, then other family members, such as siblings and grandparents, may have the right to pursue the wrongful death claim.
What other statutory limitations exist?
Perhaps the most important rule limiting wrongful death claims in Louisiana is the statute of limitations. This law specifically imposes a limit on how long surviving family members have to file a lawsuit. If someone does not initiate litigation within one year of the decedent’s date of death, the family may lose the right to bring a claim at all.
The state does limit the amount of compensation in certain cases, such as when the family pursues a medical malpractice claim after someone dies. They may only be able to secure $500,000 in compensation. Otherwise, the state does not cap the compensation available as long as the claim has a basis in a family’s real losses. As a general rule, a judge usually won’t grant punitive damages except in the most egregious of cases.
Seeking legal guidance and learning about the basic rules that apply to Louisiana wrongful death claims may benefit those hoping to pursue justice in the civil courts.