Dealing with any kind of death in your family can be an immensely painful experience. It’s made even worse when that death was the result of another’s negligent or unsafe conduct.
The loss of a loved one often results in economic loss: a decline in income for a family, outstanding medical bills related to the loved one’s care, funeral bills, and the need to hire others to do work around the home that the loved one previously handled.
Lawsuits on behalf of families whose loved one has died as a result of the misconduct of another are frequently referred to as “wrongful death” cases. The attorneys at Gideon Asen have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of families in wrongful death cases.
What is a “Wrongful Death” in Maine?
Some people assume that to succeed in a wrongful death, the family must prove that the death was a homicide–that is, a result of intentional conduct. Not so.
Under Maine law a wrongful death is simply a death which is caused by conduct for which the deceased person could have brought a personal injury claim he she lived. For example, if one is rear-ended by a vehicle while sitting at a red light, she likely has a personal injury claim. Similarly, if the victim dies after being rear-ended, her family has a wrongful death claim.
Gideon Asen represents families in wrongful death cases arising from a wide range of negligent conduct or malfeasance. Common types of wrongful death claims include motor vehicle accident cases, medical malpractice cases, workplace injury cases. In addition, wrongful death cases can arise from deaths resulting from intentional and/or reckless conduct.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim and How Do They Do It?
When you reach out to an attorney about a wrongful death claim, the attorney will first evaluate whether she will be able to prove that your loved one’s death was the result of negligence. Specifically, the attorney will examine whether (1) a potential defendant had a legal duty to the decedent, (2) that potential defendant breached his or her duty of care, and (3) whether the defendant’s negligence was a legal cause of the death.
Before an attorney will be able to bring a wrongful death claim on behalf of a family, the attorney will need to work with the family to ensure a representative of the family has been appointed. In Maine, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate is allowed to bring a wrongful death claim.
Also keep in mind that a wrongful death claim has a certain window of time within which it needs to be filed. Generally, the statute of limitations on a wrongful death claim in Maine is two years from the date of the death in question. However, in wrongful deaths arising from medical malpractice, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the negligence. It is not always the case that the statute of limitations in medical malpractice related wrongful death cases is more favorable to plaintiffs than the general, two-year statute: remember that the negligence–which triggers the medical malpractice statute of limitations statute–may have occurred long before the patient died.
What are the Possible Damages I Could Get from a Wrongful Death Claim in Maine?
Under Maine law, the amount of damages an Estate can seek for the loss of comfort, society and companionship of the deceased is capped. Up until recently, the cap was $500,000. However, the attorneys at Gideon Asen, along with others, successfully sought to increase the cap to $750,000. Punitive damages, those which are placed as a punishment on the defendant, are capped at $250,000.
Other types of damages, however, are not capped. The Estate can seek economic damages– for example, for the loss of wages, funeral expenses, medical bills. The Estate can also seek damages for the decent’s pain and suffering before his or her death.
The division of a recovery in a wrongful death case is often complicated. Recovery for the family’s loss of comfort, society and companionship of the deceased is divided among “statutory beneficiaries” according to Maine law. Usually, but not always, the statutory beneficiaries include the spouse and child. However, recovery for other types of damages–economic loss and pre-death pain and suffering–go “through the Estate” and are divided according to the decent’s will, if he or she had one. Your attorney will assist you in understanding how a wrongful death recovery must be divided under Maine law.
How Can I Get Help Dealing with a Wrongful Death Claim?
If you have lost a loved one in what you believe to be a wrongful death then the best way to get help is through an experienced attorney such as those here at Gideon Asen. With a potential wrongful death claim it is important to first determine if there are grounds for the claim. After suffering a loss, it can be difficult to see clearly whether or not you have a case. That’s where an attorney can start to help.
But that’s not where their help ends. If you have a case then they’ll be able to walk you through what needs to be done, who needs to file the claim, what needs to be in it. There’s dozens of little details which are easy to handle but just as easy to miss. Thankfully an experienced attorney will know what they are for you. So give us a call at (207) 288-7931 to see what your next steps are when it comes to dealing with your wrongful death claim in the state of Maine.