Wrongful Death

Des Moines Wrongful Death Lawyers

Losing a loved one is always a tragic experience. The tragedy is compounded when you lose your loved one suddenly, through the negligence of another person’s actions. Not only do you have to deal with unexpected loss and unexpected costs, but now you have to deal with a lawsuit.

You should never have to go through this process alone, which is why it is important to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney. The personal injury attorneys at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling have the understanding and compassion to help you through these trying times. We can fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We know that no amount of money can replace the life you lost, but it can help with unforeseen costs and future living expenses. Call us to schedule a free consultation with one of our wrongful death lawyers.

Why Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney?

A wrongful death lawyer can help you understand what a wrongful death claim is and how to file a lawsuit properly. They can also assist in determining the appropriate course of action, whether through the court system or through out-of-court settlement negotiations. An experienced attorney will always work with their client to achieve the desired results using the methods that are most effective for them.

Families who have lost loved ones as a result of another person’s negligence or wrongful behavior might seek help from wrongful death lawyers. Attorneys will file wrongful death lawsuits on your behalf and fight for monetary compensation to help you deal with the financial ramifications of a loved one’s untimely death.

In wrongful death cases, determining liability is critical. An experienced lawyer will be able to establish who is responsible and hold them accountable. This can sometimes be more than one individual, and proving it when there was no outward act might be challenging.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

When one person dies as a result of the legal fault or negligence of another person or entity, a wrongful death lawsuit can be filed under Iowa law on their behalf. Where the person may have filed a personal injury claim if they had lived, a wrongful death claim can be filed. A wrongful death lawsuit operates much like a personal injury lawsuit–an individual is filing a lawsuit against another person for negligent behavior. The only difference is that the person filing the claim is filing on behalf of someone’s estate and not for themselves.

Similar to other forms of personal injury claims, the defendant’s guilt in a wrongful death claim (civil lawsuit) is expressed solely in the award from the trial or settlement. The compensation gained from the suit is paid to the decedent’s estate or surviving loved ones.  This is in contrast to a criminal conviction, which can result in a jail or prison sentence, probation, or other penalties.

Wrongful death lawsuits can result from car accidents, medical malpractice, catastrophic accidents, construction accidents, brain injuries, back injuries, workplace injuries, and other negligent actions.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

In some jurisdictions, the surviving family members of a deceased person are able to file a wrongful death claim. In Iowa, however, the estate’s personal representative (sometimes known as the “executor”) is required to initiate a wrongful death claim. If no personal representative is named—for example, if the deceased individual was a minor with no assets or died without a will—the court will select someone to function as personal representative.

In Iowa, most wrongful death claims must be submitted within two years after the date of death, according to legislation known as the “statute of limitations.” The court will most likely refuse to consider the case if the claim is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, according to Iowa Code 614.1.

If the death was caused by medical misconduct, there may be an exception to the filing deadline.

What Damages Can You Collect in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The court orders the defendant to pay “damages”—or the plaintiff’s claimed losses—to the deceased person’s survivors or estate in successful wrongful death litigation. The sorts of damages paid in Iowa vary depending on the facts of the case, but they can include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Lost wages and benefits
  • Loss of companionship or the value of a deceased spouse’s, parent’s, or child’s services and support
  • The deceased person’s pain and suffering

Iowa’s wrongful death provisions are outlined in Iowa law 613.15, 613.15A, and 633.336.

Who Can You Sue for Wrongful Death?

Several parties might be held accountable through a wrongful death claim. Though each situation is different, you can generally file a claim against any person or organization responsible for your loved one’s death. This might include:

  1. Negligent Drivers
    • Car Accidents: If your loved one was killed in a vehicle accident caused by a negligent driver, you could file a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver. This includes cases involving drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, or reckless driving.
    • Commercial Vehicle Operators: In cases involving commercial vehicles like trucks or buses, the employer of the negligent driver or the company that owns the vehicle may also be held liable.
  2. Medical Professionals
    • Medical Malpractice: If a healthcare provider’s negligence, such as misdiagnosis, surgical errors, or improper treatment, led to your loved one’s death, you could file a wrongful death claim against the responsible doctor, nurse, or other medical professional.
    • Hospitals and Clinics: The healthcare facility where the negligent treatment occurred may also be held liable for the wrongful death.
  3. Property Owners
    • Premises Liability: Property owners have a duty to maintain safe conditions on their premises. If your loved one died because of unsafe conditions, such as slip-and-fall accidents, inadequate security, or building code violations, you could sue the property owner or manager.
  4. Product Manufacturers
    • Product Liability: If a defective product, such as a faulty vehicle part, dangerous drug, or defective machinery, caused your loved one’s death, you could file a wrongful death claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the product.
  5. Employers
    • Workplace Accidents: If your loved one died in a workplace accident due to unsafe working conditions or employer negligence, you could file a wrongful death claim against the employer. This is in addition to any workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to.
  6. Government Entities
    • Public Property and Employee Negligence: If your loved one’s death was caused by the negligence of a government employee or occurred on public property due to unsafe conditions, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim against the relevant government entity. However, special procedures and limitations often apply when suing the government.

One of the most important elements of a successful wrongful death claim is clearly establishing liability. An experienced lawyer will know how to determine who is truly at fault and how to build a compelling case that the at-fault party’s actions or inactions contributed to the death.

Legal Grounds for a Wrongful Death Claim in Iowa

Wrongful death claims typically involve either negligence or intentional harm or misconduct. Let’s look at these two concepts in more detail.

Negligence in Wrongful Death Claims

Negligence is the most common basis for wrongful death claims. To establish negligence, the following elements must be proven:

  1. Duty of Care: The defendant owed a duty of care to the deceased. This means they had a legal obligation to act in a certain way to avoid harming others. For example, drivers have a duty to follow traffic laws and drive safely, while doctors have a duty to provide competent medical care to their patients.
  2. Breach of Duty: The defendant breached their duty of care by acting in a way that a reasonably prudent person would not. This can involve actions (such as running a red light) or inactions and omissions (such as failing to diagnose a medical condition).
  3. Causation: The defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the deceased’s death. It must be shown that the death would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s actions or negligence.
  4. Damages: The death resulted in quantifiable damages, such as medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and emotional suffering of the surviving family members.

Intentional Harm or Misconduct

In some cases, wrongful death claims are based on intentional harm or misconduct rather than negligence. These cases involve actions where the defendant deliberately caused harm to the deceased.

Unlike negligence, which involves carelessness, intentional harm cases require proof that the defendant acted with intent to cause injury or death. Examples might include assault and battery or homicide.

In wrongful death claims based on intentional harm, the legal process may involve both civil and criminal proceedings. While the criminal case focuses on punishing the wrongdoer, the civil wrongful death claim seeks compensation for the surviving family members.

Why Wrongful Death Claims Are Different

Wrongful death claims are unique from other types of injury claims because of the stakes involved and the potential complexity of the cases. In many instances, families depend on the successful outcome of a wrongful death claim. They might need a significant amount of compensation to navigate the financial fallout of losing a loved one.

Wrongful death cases can also be more complex than other types of injury cases. They might involve enlisting expert witnesses, accident reconstruction experts, or other specialists to help build a case.

This is why it’s so important to work with a law firm with experience handling wrongful death cases. Take advantage of free consultations with different firms to find the right fit for your case.

Des Moines Wrongful Death Lawyers at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

If you believe your loved one died as a result of someone else’s negligence, a wrongful death case may be warranted. There isn’t anything more heartbreaking than a loved one’s premature death, which has far-reaching consequences for the surviving family. They must deal with not only their grief and loss but also the financial strain that comes with a death caused by someone else’s negligence.

Contact the Des Moines wrongful death lawyers at the law firm of Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling today to discuss your case and all legal options. If you have lost a loved one from any type of fatal accident, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim. We can provide sound legal advice through a free initial consultation with one of our experienced car accident attorneys. You can reach us online or by phone at (515) 316-3019. Our offices are located in Des Moines, Iowa.


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