Losing a loved one is a harrowing experience, and if someone’s negligent actions contributed to your loved one’s death, it is natural to want justice. Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may be eligible to take legal action against the party responsible for your loved one’s passing through a wrongful death lawsuit.
A Portland wrongful death attorney at Tillmann Law we are here to guide you through Oregon’s complex wrongful death lawsuit process. We will advocate aggressively for your family’s right to compensation from consultation to settlement.
Call our Portland, Oregon office to schedule a free consultation with our wrongful death lawyers at (503) 272-8986. We are available to take your call 24/7 and get you the help you need ASAP.
Under Oregon law, a wrongful death case happens when someone else’s wrongful act or omission results in someone’s death. One way to determine if your loved one’s death is wrongful is to ask yourself this question: if he or she were alive, would he or she have grounds to file a personal injury claim for the accident?
If the answer is yes, then you may have grounds to file a wrongful death claim. Many types of wrongful actions can lead to wrongful death, including the following.
Identifying whether or not your loved one’s death is wrongful can be difficult without legal assistance. Speak to a Portland wrongful death attorney at Tillmann Law to determine if you have grounds for a wrongful death claim. We offer free case evaluations and can take your phone call 24/7.
When you suddenly and unexpectedly lose a family member, you and your family can face serious damage. According to Oregon Revised Statute 30.020, a wrongful death occurs when someone’s wrongful act or omission causes a person’s death — and any individual with an eligible relationship to the deceased can file a lawsuit on his or her behalf.
This law is important, because it helps families collect financial remedies for the impact that their loved one’s death had on them. While no amount of money can ever make up for the loss of a loved one, a financial settlement can help ease the burden that the family faces — especially if the deceased was the primary breadwinner, provided medical benefits to the family, or incurred very expensive medical costs and funeral expenses upon his or her death.
In some cases, criminal actions such as assault, homicide, or drunk driving cause wrongful deaths. Since criminal charges and civil lawsuits involve two different legal processes, you can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and a criminal trial for your loved one’s passing.
The purpose of wrongful death lawsuits is to compensate the family and the estate for the financial and emotional damages they incur due to the death, while criminal charges are in place to penalize the person responsible for the death. You can pursue both of these legal actions at the same time, and you can even file a lawsuit after the at-fault party receives a criminal conviction.
Most states impose limitations on who can file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased person. In Oregon, family members who can recover damages in a wrongful death claim may file this type of lawsuit. These family members may include a surviving spouse, child, or parent, as well as grandparents, stepchildren, or stepparents.
However, only the personal representative of the deceased’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Oregon civil court. This individual is often a family member, but this is not always the case.
The deceased will typically name his or her personal representative in a will or estate plan. If the deceased did not leave a personal representative behind, the court can appoint one on his or her behalf.
To prove a wrongful death lawsuit, you will need to establish that the defendant acted negligently or committed an intentional act. You will then need to show that these actions caused your loved one’s death and resulting damages. Specifically, you and your lawyer will need to gather sufficient evidence to prove four elements: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
While these elements may seem relatively straightforward, many wrongful death claims are highly complex. In these situations, the Portland wrongful death lawyer at Tillmann Law can help. Our attorney will work diligently to investigate your claim, gather evidence, speak to experts, and craft a compelling case in your favor.
Oregon courts limit the damages you can collect through a wrongful death lawsuit to very specific losses surrounding the deceased’s passing. The purpose of these damages is to compensate family members and the deceased’s estate.
Damages in wrongful death claims may include the following.
Oregon law establishes caps, or limits, on the amount of compensation that a plaintiff can claim in a wrongful death lawsuit. For non-economic pain and suffering damages, you and your family can recover up to $500,000.
You can claim the full extent of economic damages, like medical costs or funeral and burial expenses. Your attorney from Tillmann Law will work closely with you to identify all potential avenues to compensation and calculate the estimated settlement on your family’s behalf.
A deceased person cannot defend himself or herself in a wrongful death claim. Unfortunately, some defendants may try to reduce their financial liability by claiming that the victim is partially responsible for his or her death. If the court accepts this claim, the final settlement could be reduced or denied altogether.
According to Oregon’s comparative negligence laws, a settlement in a wrongful death claim will be reduced by the percent of liability that the deceased allegedly shares. If the court determines that the deceased is 51% or more responsible for the incident, the court will prevent the family from recovering any compensation.
For example, say that a person dies from injuries sustained in a Portland car accident, which occurs after the defendant ran a red light. Surveillance footage shows that the victim was texting and driving at the time of the collision. The court assigns the victim 40% of the liability.
If the lawsuit requests $100,000 in damages, the family will only receive $60,000. If the court had assigned the victim 55% of the fault, the family would not receive any compensation at all. To defend your loved one from these accusations and protect the value of the claim, it is important to speak with a wrongful death lawyer about your family’s case.
If the court awards you and your family a wrongful death settlement, you may wonder how to divide this compensation between each appropriate party. Unlike personal injury settlements, the victim of the negligent act cannot claim the compensation him or herself. To aid wrongful death plaintiffs in this process, Oregon law outlines several procedures to allocate these funds to the surviving parties.
First, the judge in your wrongful death claim will review your loved one’s will, if one is available. The judge will then allocate the settlement according to the terms of the will. If your loved one did not provide a will, the judge will invite each surviving party to testify on their relationship with the deceased person and the damages they experienced as a result of his or her death.
After hearing these testimonies, the judge will decide how to allocate the settlement based on state law and what each surviving party stated. While each case is different, judges often distribute Oregon wrongful death settlements in the following order.
The statute of limitations in wrongful death lawsuits in Oregon is three years. What this means is those eligible to file wrongful death claims must do so within three years of the accident or injury that resulted in a death. It’s important to seek legal assistance from a law firm that covers these types of cases immediately, to ensure that those affected by a person’s passing can receive the compensation they deserve. A death could bring a lot of difficulties families and loved ones may not be prepared to cover, which includes funeral expenses, or medical expenses.
Some families do not pursue wrongful death litigation for a long time following their loved one’s death. They may not realize that they qualify for these claims or not know the cause of their loved one’s death. By the time that they begin to explore legal action, the filing deadline has passed.
According to Oregon Revised Statutes 30.020, there are certain exceptions to the statute of limitations. If your case qualifies, the court could extend the filing deadline and provide your family with a longer window in which to pursue compensation.
One of these exceptions is known as the discovery rule. If your family did not discover the cause of your loved one’s death until a later date, the court will base the statute of limitations on the date you discovered or should have discovered the cause. You could file the wrongful death lawsuit up to 10 years following your loved one’s death, depending on the date of discovery.
A wrongful death claim can be one of the most complex types of personal injury lawsuits. Proving your lawsuit will require in-depth investigation, knowledge of the litigation process, and the ability to represent yourself in negotiations and during trial. For many, this process can be challenging, especially while grieving the loss of a loved one.
In these situations, hiring a wrongful death lawyer can help. Your attorney will handle all aspects of your claim on your family’s behalf, such as the following.
If you recently lost a loved one due to the negligent actions of another person or entity, Tillmann Law can help. Our wrongful death lawyers will advocate tirelessly on you and your family’s behalf, maintaining open communication each step of the way so we can build the most compelling case in your favor.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our Portland personal injury attorneys. We will walk you through your legal options and determine whether or not you qualify for wrongful death litigation.