wrongful death attorney new orleans

If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s wrongdoing or negligence, no lawsuit could ever bring your loved one back, and no amount of money can ever truly compensate you for your loss.

However, you can hold the responsible parties accountable and seek justice for your loved one in a wrongful death claim.

Wrongful death claims can arise from any situation in which a party’s negligence or misconduct caused the death of an innocent person.

Common causes of wrongful death include auto accidents, commercial trucking accidents, medical malpractice, industrial accidents, dangerous products, and many other types of injuries.

The unexpected loss of a loved one often causes emotional and financial disruptions in the family dynamic.

While you may wish that the people responsible for causing your loss would take responsibility, the unfortunate reality is that most people simply do not unless forced to do so through the civil litigation system.

If you have lost a loved one through another person’s negligence, our law firm can help you recover compensation for your loss and fill the financial gap caused by your loss.

louisiana wrongful death stats

New Orleans Wrongful Death Statistics

Louisiana has among the highest rates of accidental deaths in the United States.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

One of the largest causes of accidental deaths in Louisiana is car accidents.

  • In 2013, Louisiana had 620 fatal car accidents and in 2017 there were 825.
  • As of 2018, Louisiana averaged 16.5 motor vehicle accident fatalities per one-hundred thousand residents.
  • Only five states had a higher average – Wyoming, Montana, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama.

DUIs

Drunk driving is a significant factor in motor vehicle fatalities.

  • According to a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, between 2003 – 2012, Louisiana’s rate of alcohol-involved deaths was 5.2 per 100,000 people.
  • The average across the entire United States was 3.3 deaths per 100,000.

Work Accidents

Many Louisiana residents work in occupations that are dangerous. The offshore, construction, and trucking industries are the most common source for fatal work accidents.

  • In 2015, there were a total of 100 reported fatal work accidents in Louisiana.

Medical Negligence Death

Surprisingly, medical negligence is considered the third-leading cause of death.

  • A Johns Hopkins study estimates that 250,000 people in the United States die from medical errors each year.

Drug Overdose Death

Another major cause of accidental deaths is drug overdoses. This is especially the case with the rise of the opioid epidemic.

  • In 2018, there were 1,140 deaths attributed to drug overdoses. 444 of these fatalities were attributed to opioid abuse.

Do You Have a Good Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death cases in Louisiana are usually divided between two different categories:

  1. Survival claims brought on behalf of the person who died and;
  2. Wrongful death claims brought by family members. These cases are unique and require different types of evidence to maximize damages.

A wrongful death most often occurs because another person acted in a negligent or reckless manner. A person can negligently cause the death of another person in a wide variety of ways. Common causes of wrongful death include traffic accidents, work accidents, dangerous products, and medical negligence.

How to Prove a Wrongful Death Claim in New Orleans

To prove a negligence case in Louisiana, you need to prove four different elements:

Duty: To prove that someone was negligent in a wrongful death case you first need to prove that a duty was owed to the person who died.

The idea of duty is very broad: we owe a duty of reasonable care to others. The existence of a legal duty is normally an issue the judge in a case decides.

For example, let’s say a driver was driving 20 miles above the speed limit during a heavy rainstorm.

If the driver loses control of the vehicle and kills your parents, it is easy to conclude that he breached a duty owed to your parents to drive at a reasonable speed during a rainstorm.

Breach of Duty: This element simply requires you to prove that the defendant breached the legal duty owed to the person you died.

Causation: You need to prove that the wrongful death was caused by the defendant’s negligence.

Damages: This is the final element to have a viable wrongful death case.

An experienced wrongful death attorney should gather extensive records to investigate your claim. Evidence that is often used to prove a wrongful death includes:

  • Police Reports: If an accident resulted in a fatality there should be a thorough investigation about the cause of the accident. In many cases, the police at the scene will take photos of the accident scene will help establish who caused the accident and wrongful death. In other cases, there may be witnesses who provide statements to the authorities about what happened.
  • Medical Records: Medical records are often an essential tool in proving how a person was injured and ultimately perished.
  • EMT Records: Records from an ambulance service or other first responder should always be gathered to investigate a wrongful death claim. 
  • 911 Records: Fatal accidents are often reported to 911. Records related to the call should
  • Insurance Records: Records related to first-party insurance claims may contain information helpful to your claim.

Related: How to Get a Copy of Your New Orleans Police Accident Report

Wrongful Death FAQs

Wrongful death claims are complicated an choosing the right attorney for you is equally as hard. Here are some frequently asked questions that we hope provides you the information you need for you personal case.

Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Louisiana?

A lawsuit can be filed on behalf of the person who passed away. Certain close family members can also make personal claims for damages.

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Louisiana?

Louisiana has adopted a one-year prescription period to file wrongful death and personal injury cases. This means that you have one year from the date of the wrongful death to file a lawsuit.

If you believe you have a viable wrongful death case, you should not wait until the last moment to speak to an attorney.

In some cases, a person may be involved in an accident that causes injuries that do not immediately result in death. In these situations, the one-year time period to file a wrongful death case begins to run on the date the person dies.

What Is A Survival Claim?

The person who died has a survival claim. This is different from a wrongful death claim that can be filed by certain relatives of the person who died for their personal damages.

The damages that can be recovered in a survival claim must be paid to certain classifications of people listed in Louisiana Civil Code article 2315.1.

The order of people who can recover damages include the following:

  • The surviving spouse and child or children of the deceased, or either the spouse or the child or children.
  • The surviving father and mother of the deceased, or either of them if he left no spouse or child surviving. However, a father or mother who has abandoned the deceased during his minority is deemed not to have survived him.
  • The surviving brothers and sisters of the deceased, or any of them, if he left no spouse, child, or parent surviving.
  • The surviving grandfathers and grandmothers of the deceased, or any of them, if he left no spouse, child, parent, or sibling surviving.
  • The deceased’s succession representative in the absence of any of the above class of beneficiary.

The purpose of a survival claim is to provide compensation for the lost chance of survival.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim?

The purpose of a survivorship claim is to provide compensation for the lost chance of survival.

A wrongful death claim is entirely different from a survival claim. The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to compensate a family member for his or her personal damages caused by the wrongful death. This is different from a survivorship claim, which is meant to compensate for the damages owed directly to the person who died.  

In Louisiana, only certain relatives are allowed to file a claim for wrongful death. The order of relatives who can file a wrongful death claim are as follows:

  • The surviving spouse and child or children of the deceased, or either the spouse or the child or children.
  • The surviving father and mother of the deceased, or either of them if he left no spouse or child surviving.
  • The surviving brothers and sisters of the deceased, or any of them, if he left no spouse, child, or parent surviving.
  • The surviving grandfathers and grandmothers of the deceased, or any of them, if he left no spouse, child, parent, or sibling surviving.

Damages That Can Be Recovered in a Wrongful Death Claim 

Each case is unique, and it is important to remember that a survival claim is different from a wrongful death case. In many cases, you can seek compensation for the following items:

  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of future inheritance
  • Loss of love and companionship
  • Loss of guidance and care
  • Loss of household services

How Do You Prove Damages in A Wrongful Death Case?

Wrongful death damages are measured by the relationship you had with the person who died. If there is evidence of a close relationship, a jury is more likely to award more money to you.

However, if there is little evidence of a close relationship, a jury may award less money or damages for the value of the lost relationship. Your attorney should gather evidence, witnesses, and testimony to help establish that you had a close relationship with the person who died.

There are several categories of damages that can be recovered in wrongful death cases that require financial proof.

For example:

  • Loss of financial support: If there is evidence that the person who died supported you financially, you can recover money for the lost financial support. The amount you can recover depends on the amount of financial support that you can prove you received. You will need to establish that the person who died either provided direct payments or paid for services on your behalf. For example, if a parent pays your college tuition that can be considered for damages.
  • Loss of household services: The person who died may have handled household services for the family’s benefit. You may be able to recover money for these lost services.
  • Loss of future inheritance: If the person who died left you an inheritance, you may claim damages of loss of future inheritance. This claim asserts that the person who died would have left a larger inheritance had they not be killed prematurely.

Your attorney should retain an accountant to assist in proving up the specific value of your financial damages.

How Long Will My Case Take?

This depends on the specifics of your case. Many cases settle without filing a lawsuit.

When we take on a case, we thoroughly investigate the facts so it can be settled for as much as possible without the time and stress of going to court.

Sometimes filing a lawsuit and even going to trial is necessary?

Can You Recover Punitive Damages If the Killing Was Criminal?

Punitive damages are a special type of damages that are generally not available in most cases. In general, you can only recover punitive damages in Louisiana for the following reasons:

  • Injury through domestic violence
  • Motor vehicle accidents caused by gross negligence such as an accident caused by a drunk driver
  • Physical attack
  • Defective products that have injured many people

Murder, homicide, and possibly criminally negligent homicide may form the basis to recover punitive damages.

How Much Does a Wrongful Death Attorney Cost?

Most attorneys will represent you in a wrongful death claim on contingency. This means the attorney will get paid a percentage of the total recovery received through settlement or trial. An attorney handling your case on contingency should front all cases costs and seek reimbursement at the conclusion of your case.

What Is the Right Time to Speak With a Wrongful Death Attorney?

Wrongful death cases are often hotly contested by the defendant and its insurance company. It is important to speak with a qualified wrongful death attorney as soon as you can so you can. A wrongful death attorney will investigate the cause of death, preserve important evidence, and file a lawsuit.

 Can I Recover Damages For Observing a Loved One’s Death?

In Louisiana, a person with a wrongful death claim may have what is called a bystander claim.

This type of claim allows a person to recover additional damages if he or she observed the death of a close family member.

How Much Can Be Recovered If Death Was Caused By Medical Negligence?

Medical error is one of the most common causes of death in the United States. Louisiana has enacted a strict damage cap of $500,000.00 that applies even when a physician’s negligence causes the death of a patient.

The $500,000.00 cap applies to both the survival and wrongful death claims that are available to the estate and family.

The $500,000.00 cap does not account for medical expenses incurred by the person who died or judicial interest.

The $500,000.00 cap was passed into law in 1975 and is viewed by many as being unreasonably low. However, the Louisiana Supreme Court has upheld the cap on several occasions.

Contact a New Orleans Wrongful Death Attorney

Taking the first step to holding someone accountable in a wrongful death claim is never easy.

If you do choose to hire an attorney, you should select a laws firm that has the resources to see your case through to the end and maximize your results.

Our attorneys are experienced in handling wrongful death cases. We strive to take the stress and confusion out of the claim process.

We take a personalized approach to each case we take on and work hard to bring you justice. With us, you will have a team of dedicated professionals walking you through the process.

If you would like to schedule a free no-obligation meeting to discuss your case, please call us at (504) 273-0444 or complete the form below.