A wrongful death case applies when a person dies in a way that was preventable. In other words, when a person dies as a result of another person or entity acting in a negligent way, or due to careless behavior.
Not every case of accidental death is a valid Oregon wrongful death case. If you have lost a loved one, and suspect that another person or business acted carelessly to cause the loss of a loved one, you should have an Oregon wrongful death attorney review the case to find out your options.
When to Act
Although Oregon law allows several months for a surviving family member to pursue a wrongful death claim, it often makes sense to start the claims process as soon a practical. This is amazingly difficult when the pain and the grief is fresh, but In certain cases, early investigation is crucial to determine the responsible party or parties, and to investigate and establish responsibility. Our firm has handled these cases, and will often work closely with expert witnesses, including accident reconstructionists, economists, toxicologists, and even pathologists to document the case facts. Many times, these experts need to have an early look at the evidence to provide an opinion.
What to Prove
Ultimately, in order to make a claim for wrongful death in Oregon, you must show that some other person or party was negligent, and that the negligent behavior is the reason the your family member died. If your family member was killed because of his or her own fault or negligence, whether a claim exists depends on the amount or percentage of fault attributable to the person who lost their life as a result of the accident.
An experienced Oregon wrongful death attorney will review the case to determine whether another party is liable for your loved one's death. For example, a drunk driver, a trucking company that fails to take care of its equipment, or another contractor on a work site that creates a hazard for another worker are all potential parties that can cause wrongful death.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
Some common wrongful death cases include the following:
- Fatal car or truck collisions;
- Medical malpractice or negligence;
- Dangerous drugs;
- Workplace accidents;
- Defective products.
Our firm concentrates helping surviving family members with wrongful death claims involving truck and car collisions, and workplace injuries. In other cases involving defective products or medical negligence, we will often help our clients find the best attorney to handle these cases, or work side-by-side with other law firms to get our clients the best results possible.
Like other negligence claims in Oregon, injured parties and surviving family members must follow the laws of comparative fault. If the deceased person is more than 50% at fault in causing their own death, surviving family members cannot recover any compensation. If the deceased person was less than 50% at fault in causing their own death, any compensation is reduced by the relative percentage of the deceased person's fault.
In many cases, insurance companies will consider comparative fault in evaluating in defending or negotiating a case. If the case does not resolve, then a jury is asked to determine the relative fault of each party involved in the case.
What Needs To Be Done
Wrongful death cases also involve a special process, which includes the opening of an estate of the lost family member, and notifying all the potential beneficiaries of the claim. We also contact and interview family members and friends to try as much as possible to "get to know" the lost family member and a sense of who this person was, and why and how they were so special to the people they left behind.
To determine and prove fault and responsibility, we investigate the claim by contacting witnesses, or working with investigators. We often seek expert opinions from accident reconstructionists or other experts.
To determine how much and what kind of compensation to claim, we work with experts, including economists, vocational counselors, and medical and mental health professionals to document the loss to the estate and surviving family members.
In many cases, there may be litigation. This is a journey, and often difficult, but sometimes necessary. We have guided clients through this before, and we offer that experience and knowledge. Are we aggressive? Sure, you can say that, but we prefer to describe our firm as tenacious and thorough.
In many respects, a wrongful death case in Oregon is much like a personal injury case. Sometimes, the case is filed in court, and the defendant is notified of the pending lawsuit.
As the case moves forward, you will work with your attorney to develop evidence that shows the other party was at fault in causing the death of your loved one. You also need to establish evidence supporting the compensation you are claiming, such as medical expenses, income your loved one would have earned, and the impact the loss on your family both financially and personally.
At a trial, you have the opportunity to present evidence to a judge and jury. The other side, known as the "defendant," can also present evidence. After each side puts on their case, the trial court judge instructs the jury on how to apply the law to the evidence. The jury deliberates, and then renders their decision by completing a form known as a "verdict." If the jury decides that the other party was negligent, it will determine the amount of compensation that the defendant must pay to the family of the deceased.
In many cases, the verdict will set out different categories of compensation like the pecuniary loss to the estate, the loss of "society and companionship" to family members, burial and funeral costs, and medical expenses.
Our Approach: We Have Been Here Before
To say we know how you feel would simply be dishonest, and worst, disrespectful, but we can say we have been here before. We have sat across the table from grieving mothers, spouses, and even children. We know the value of listening, but also the importance of action. This is your case, not ours, and we don't forget that part either.
When You Are Ready, We Are Here For You
At a certain time, you will be ready to think about pursuing a case, or at least look into whether you have a case at all. We are ready when you are to sit down, talk, and to listen.
Many clients come to us for different reasons. Sometimes, a surviving family member simply wants to know their options. Other times, surviving family members do not want to deal with insurance adjusters and paperwork. Our goal is to make sure that we document all parts of the case, and give you all the information you need to make an informed decision on how to move forward.
We offer a free consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney. In many cases, this could help you know where you stand, and save time and effort in pursuing the case. Call 1-888-306-6910, or contact us directly to talk about your case. We handle cases throughout Oregon and Washington.
If you need more information, browse our free consumer guides. Our Oregon Personal Injury Guide provides good information on wrongful death claims. We have also worked on cases where our client's family member suffered a fatal work injury, which involves a Third Party Claim. Check out our Navigating the Oregon Workers' Compensation book to get some basic information on these kinds of cases.
Our consumer guides our free, there is no obligation, and your request is confidential.