When someone dies as a result of the neglect or misconduct of another party, the victim’s surviving family members can file a claim for wrongful death. In Nebraska, this is a type of lawsuit available to compensate survivors for their tangible and intangible losses.
Wrongful death is a complicated practice area. The best way to find out if your family has grounds for this type of claim is by consulting with a wrongful death attorney.
Nebraska’s Legal Definition of Wrongful Death
Although each state technically has its own definition of wrongful death, most are similar in the language they use. According to Nebraska Revised Statute section 30-809, wrongful death is the death of a person (including a child in utero) caused by the neglect, wrongful act or default of any person, company or corporation. The statute goes on to say that if the act would have entitled the injured person to file an action to recover damages had death not ensued, the defendant is liable in an action for wrongful death damages.
Common Causes of Wrongful Death
Wrongful death does not have to be caused by deliberate wrongdoing, criminal action or intent to take someone’s life. Although some wrongful death cases result from criminal acts, such as first-degree murder, unintentional negligence or carelessness is enough to hold someone civilly liable for a fatal injury in Nebraska.
Some of the most common accidents connected to wrongful death claims are:
- Automobile accidents
- Truck accidents
- Pedestrian and bicycle accidents
- Medical malpractice
- Dangerous premises accidents
- Swimming pool accidents
- Workplace accidents
- Defective products
- Animal attacks
- Physical abuse or assault
After any avoidable accident or act of violence that causes a loved one’s death, surviving family members should seek legal advice about a potential wrongful death lawsuit.
Elements of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
For a wrongful death lawsuit to succeed in Nebraska, the filing party must fulfill his or her burden of proof. This is an amount of proof or evidence necessary to establish the defendant as legally responsible for the fatal injury. In a civil case, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence: enough evidence to show that the defendant is more likely than not (at least 51%) responsible for causing the fatal injury.
A successful wrongful death claim generally requires proof of four main elements:
- Duty of care. The defendant owed the deceased individual a legal obligation to exercise a certain degree of care – the same amount of care a prudent party would have used.
- Negligent or intentional breach of duty. The defendant breached his or her duty of care through neglect, a wanton disregard for the safety of others or intent to harm.
- Causation for the fatal injury. The defendant’s negligence or wrongdoing caused the deceased individual harm.
- Monetary losses for surviving family members. Surviving family members suffered monetary injuries because of the decedent’s death.
It is important to note that in Nebraska, there is a statute of limitations on all wrongful death claims. A statute of limitations is a legal deadline to file. The representative of the deceased person’s estate must bring a claim within two years of the deceased person’s death. Failure to do so typically bars the family or estate from financial recovery.
Damages Available for Wrongful Death in Nebraska
Although no amount of money can ever make a family whole again after a wrongful death, a successful insurance claim or wrongful death lawsuit can provide enough to allow the family greater financial stability and peace of mind moving forward. A successful wrongful death suit can repay a family for losses such as medical bills, funeral and burial costs, lost earnings, and loss of the loved one’s consortium.
To learn more about wrongful death claims in Nebraska or discuss a particular case, contact an attorney today.