Eau Claire Wrongful Death Attorneys
The unexpected and sudden death of a loved one can leave a family in emotional turmoil, financial difficulties, and many unknowns about the future. If your loved one lost their life in Eau Claire due to the wrongdoing of an individual or entity, you may seek compensation under the wrongful death laws of Eau Claire. Contact our Eau Claire wrongful death lawyers to learn about your legal options today.
- Eau Claire Wrongful Death Attorneys
- Dedicated Team of Eau Claire Wrongful Death Lawyers - Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers
- What Is a Wrongful Death?
- Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
- Parties That Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Eau Claire
- Wrongful Death in Eau Claire
- Who Can Be Held Liable in an Eau Claire Wrongful Death Case?
- Damages Available in a La Claire Wrongful Death Action
- Wrongful Death Versus a Survival Action
- Eau Claire Wrongful Death FAQ
- How Can Our Lawyers Help You After an Eau Claire Wrongful Death?
Dedicated Team of Eau Claire Wrongful Death Lawyers - Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers
At Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers, we understand many of the challenges your family will face after the loss of a loved one in a wrongful death case. In many cases, family and loved ones are not prepared for the emotional or financial burdens that arise.
Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Attorneys can help. Our firm is passionate about representing Eau Claire families who find themselves in desperate circumstances and are just trying to move on with their lives the best they can. Contact us to talk about your wrongful death case, and read below to learn the fundamentals of wrongful death cases.
What Is a Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death is a death that would not have happened but for the intentional, reckless, or negligent actions or inactions of another. While many people can accidentally lose their lives, if someone else was at fault for the accident’s occurrence, the law provides a way for survivors to claim compensation in a wrongful death action.
The at-fault party in a wrongful death case may be charged criminally for their actions. That does not prevent a family from bringing a wrongful death action, which is a separate matter under civil law.
Unlike a criminal action, which punishes a defendant and administers criminal consequences, a wrongful death claim or a lawsuit recovers compensation from the responsible party for the victim’s surviving family.
Victims of car accidents, slips and falls, or any other personal injury resulting in injury may bring a compensation claim. But if the accident has fatal consequences, they clearly cannot recover damages. A fatal accident, however, causes separate injuries and damages the victim’s family.
Examples of Wrongful Death Cases
An Eau Claire wrongful death case may arise in an indeterminate number of scenarios. While some of the most common causes can involve car accidents or medical malpractice, many other situations commonly result in an individual dying due to the fault of another.
An Eau Claire wrongful death action may follow:
- Motor vehicle accidents - If your loved one died because of a car accident that the other driver or another party caused—such as a negligent technician who created a problem with the vehicle that led to the accident—you can seek compensation for the loss of your loved one.
- Bicycle or pedestrian accidents - The negligence of a driver causes most bicyclist or pedestrian deaths, giving rise to wrongful death actions.
- Motorcycle crashes - The negligence of others similarly hit motorcyclists. A motorcyclist’s total exposure makes a fatal accident more likely.
- Truck accidents - Semi-trucks and large trucks often cause tragic accidents due to the preventable mistakes of a truck driver, truck company, or manufacturer. Given the size and weight of these trucks, they can kill the driver and occupants in any car they collide with.
- Work accidents - Accidents on the job occur every day, some being fatal; the employer or another party responsible for the death of a worker could be held accountable to the worker’s family.
- Nursing home neglect or abuse - Nursing home deaths can occur due to neglect or abuse by the staff and caretakers you have entrusted with your loved one’s care.
- Animal attacks or bites - Those responsible for a dog that causes the death of a person can bear liability in a wrongful death action.
- Intentional acts - Prosecutors can press charges against anyone who intentionally harms or kill your loved one. In addition, family members of the deceased have the right to file a claim for compensation through insurance and/or a lawsuit in civil court.
Parties That Can Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim in Eau Claire
Can anyone who knew a wrongful death victim bring a claim? No. In Eau Claire, only certain family members may recover in a wrongful death action. Furthermore, multiple parties may not bring wrongful death actions in separate cases; rather, all the interested parties must come together to file a suit or claim. A representative, the executor of the deceased’s estate, files on behalf of the surviving family.
The following individuals can recover a claim or lawsuit for wrongful death in Wisconsin:
- A domestic partner
- A spouse
- A child
- The parent or guardians
Wrongful Death in Eau Claire
Someone might experience an unexpected fatal accident in Eau Claire in any situation. On the daily commute, while at work, or during any other normal activities, we’re all unfortunately at risk of being victims of an accident caused by another’s wrongdoing and resulting in death. Wrongful deaths are particularly hard for families because ordinary care could have prevented them.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that over 170,000 people die each year due to unintentional injuries. In many of these cases in Eau Claire, another party in the accident could have avoided the injuries but for their negligence. If you believe your loved one died because of the actions or inaction of another party, you may have a case for wrongful death against the at-fault party. Contact a wrongful death lawyer in Eau Claire to discuss your case and your options for legal recourse.
Who Can Be Held Liable in an Eau Claire Wrongful Death Case?
You may hold a party whose wrongdoing led to another’s death liable, or legally responsible, in a wrongful death action. Sometimes the at-fault party is clear. Other times, the facts of the case make identifying liable parties more complex. The liability of a party depends greatly on their relationship to the individual who suffered a fatal injury and the duty of care that the party owed the individual. The law considers one’s duty of care as the standard of conduct they must provide to avoid harming others. Plaintiffs can bring a claim or lawsuit for wrongful death against individuals or entities. In some cases, more than one party can face liability for the death of your loved one.
Examples of potentially liable parties in an Eau Claire wrongful death action include:
- Government agencies
- Property owners or management companies
- Nursing homes
Damages Available in a La Claire Wrongful Death Action
As the loved one of a La Claire wrongful death victim, you may seek compensation. The monetary damages you may recover differs based on the relationship between you and the deceased and the extent of the impacts and expenses you bear as a result of the wrongful death. A plaintiff in a wrongful death action may recover economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include actual monetary losses that can be objectively verified, such as a medical bill. Non-economic damages are not so financially specific, as they encompass personal impacts. These damages compensate an individual for losses such as the companionship of the deceased.
Damages in a wrongful death action may include:
- Medical expenses - All medical costs your loved one incurred before death are recoverable in a wrongful death action. This includes emergency care costs, subsequent treatment, surgeries, and any other medical attention they received to address their accident injuries.
- Burial and funeral expenses - All costs related to the funeral and burial, or cremation, of your loved one.
- Loss of financial support - Often, the deceased is a primary breadwinner for their family. A family can recover compensation for the lost future wages of the financial provider. These damages can be a significant portion of the compensation package, as they account for the income the provider could have brought in for the family throughout their lifetime.
- Loss of society and companionship - These damages account for the emotional loss and impact of the passing of the loved one on the surviving members of the family. This compensation accounts for the loss of companionship of the deceased family member and the distress and trauma experienced associated with it. Wisconsin law limits the compensation an Eau Claire family may recover for this specific damage. If the deceased loved one was a minor, Wisconsin caps these damages at $500,000. If the deceased loved one was an adult, the state caps these damages at $350,000.
Wrongful Death Versus a Survival Action
Wrongful death claims and survival actions are often confused but are separate legal claims.
Only the personal representative of the estate can bring a survival action for the deceased individual. This action benefits the deceased and applies to the damages sustained by the individual from the moment of injury until the time of their death. Not all wrongful deaths cause the immediate death of an individual. In many cases, an individual can survive day, weeks, or months after the initial injury occurred but ultimately succumb to their injuries.
A survival action allows the representative of the estate to file a claim or lawsuit on behalf of the individual who could have filed a personal injury claim or suit for their damages before their death. A survival action allows for the recovery of damages specific to the deceased individual, and which were not suffered by their family, such as the individual’s pain and suffering before death.
A wrongful death action benefits and accounts for the losses suffered by the loved ones of the deceased, not for the losses of the deceased themselves. The claim for damages in a wrongful death suit is the financial and emotional burdens that befall the surviving family member of the loved one lost.
Eau Claire Wrongful Death FAQ
Fatal accidents can occur anywhere in Eau Claire: a traffic accident on East Clairemont Avenue; a fall from a ladder at a Putnam Park neighborhood home; a boating mishap on Dells Pond; a semi-truck accident on I-94. No matter where tragic losses of life occur in Eau Claire, however, they nearly always devastate those the deceased victims leave behind.
After an unexpected death in Eau Claire, grieving spouses and family members of the victim need answers to important questions about the legal, financial, and practical challenges that suddenly confront them. Our skilled Eau Claire wrongful death attorneys can answer those questions in a free consultation.
Answers to some common questions that arise after a wrongful death also appear below.
What does it mean for a death to be wrongful?
Wisconsin statutes define a wrongful death as a death “caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default.” In less legalistic terms, death is wrongful if it shouldn’t have happened, and was caused by someone else’s unreasonable, reckless, or intentionally harmful decisions or actions.
It isn’t always easy to know whether someone caused a wrongful death. The most reliable way to find out if your spouse or family member died under wrongful circumstances is to speak with an experienced Eau Claire wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
What is a wrongful death claim?
A wrongful death claim is a legal action specifically authorized under Wisconsin law in which a personal representative of the deceased, or the deceased’s surviving spouse and/or family members, seek damages from the party at fault for causing the wrongful death. Its purpose is to compensate those parties for the financial and non-financial losses they suffered due to the death.
Sometimes, a wrongful death claim is paired with a claim called a survival action. That is a separate legal claim seeking compensation for damages suffered by the deceased victim before death. The two get paired when the deceased suffered financial and non-financial damages in connection with the actions or events that ultimately resulted in death.
Although wrongful death claims and survival actions are distinct, lawyers and courts will sometimes refer to a lawsuit that combines both types of claims as a “wrongful death” case.
The distinction between the two types of legal actions is that a wrongful death claim, and any proceeds from it, directly belong to the deceased’s heirs under Wisconsin law (spouse, children, parents, and other family members). In contrast, a survival action belongs to the deceased person’s estate, and its proceeds are used first to pay the estate’s debts, before being distributed according to the deceased’s will or under Wisconsin inheritance laws.
An Eau Claire wrongful death attorney can represent the deceased person’s personal representative and/or spouse and family members in both types of legal action.
Can a friend of the deceased file a wrongful death claim?
Generally speaking, no. A wrongful death claim belongs only to the deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, parents, and other family members as outlined in the statute linked above.
A friend of the deceased may serve as the deceased’s personal representative for purposes of filing a lawsuit. But the proceeds of the lawsuit would not belong to the personal representative in that case (although, in some cases, the personal representative may recover a fee for services rendered to the deceased’s estate).
What kind of damages can a wrongful death claim recover?
A wrongful death claim—the specific legal action belonging to a surviving spouse or family member—seeks compensation for the loss of life.
Under Wisconsin law, a wrongful death claim can recover two broad categories of damages.
- Pecuniary damages consist of financial losses or impacts caused by a person’s death. They typically include the value of any financial support the deceased provided and any costs borne by a surviving spouse or family member related to the deceased’s death or the events that caused that death.
- Non-pecuniary damages for loss of society or companionship are also recoverable under Wisconsin law, up to a maximum of $350,000 when the deceased was an adult and $500,000 when the deceased was a child.
Apart from the damages potentially recoverable in a wrongful death claim, a survival action related to wrongful death may also seek to recover damages that the deceased would have had the right to seek through his or her own personal injury lawsuit, had death not occurred.
Those may include pecuniary losses like medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial impacts of the injuries the deceased suffered before death, damages for the deceased’s pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages that punish extreme or outrageous conduct by the at-fault party.
How much money can a wrongful death case recover?
The amount of money a surviving spouse or family member may recover in a wrongful death case can vary widely, depending on:
- The age and state of health of the deceased at the time of death
- The degree of financial support the deceased provided
- The availability and strength of evidence to support the claim
- The amount of dispute over questions of liability and damages
- The financial resources the at-fault party has available to pay damages
To give yourself and your family the best chance of recovering maximum compensation in an Eau Claire wrongful death action, seek the services of a skilled wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
How much time do we have to file a wrongful death claim?
A law called the statute of limitations sets a time limit on filing a wrongful death claim. In Wisconsin, you typically have three years in which to file a wrongful death action, except if the death resulted from a motor vehicle accident, in which case you have just two years.
The statute of limitations is an expiration date on your legal rights. It is not the suggested date for filing a wrongful death claim. In nearly all cases, you and your family will have the strongest chance of prevailing in a wrongful death case if you seek the advice and services of an experienced Eau Claire wrongful death attorney as soon as possible after the death of your loved one.
Quick action helps to ensure that the attorney can:
- Gather important evidence to support the claim before it goes missing.
- Put parties on notice of the claim.
- Prepare the strongest possible case on your behalf.
My loved one died in a work-related accident. Can I file a wrongful death lawsuit?
It depends on the circumstances of the accident.
In some cases involving workplace deaths, a claim under workers’ compensation insurance may take the place of filing a wrongful death lawsuit. In others, in addition to (or, in rare cases, in place of) a workers’ comp claim, you may have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.
Under Wisconsin law, most Eau Claire employers must provide workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Workers’ comp includes a death benefit payable to the family of any worker who died from a work-related injury or illness (usually regardless of fault). The amount of the death benefit changes annually, but equals four times the deceased worker’s average annual wage, up to a statutory maximum amount (currently slightly more than $300,000).
The workers’ compensation death benefit normally takes the place of a surviving spouse’s or family member’s right to sue the deceased worker’s employer for wrongful death. In the event the worker died in circumstances in which a third-party’s wrongful actions contributed to the cause of death, however, the worker’s surviving spouse or family members may have the right to sue that third party (someone other than the worker’s employer or co-worker) for wrongful death.
For example, if your loved one died on the job because a defective piece of work equipment malfunctioned, you may have the ability to take legal action for wrongful death against the equipment manufacturer.
Speak with an experienced Eau Claire wrongful death attorney as soon as possible if your loved one died from a work-related injury or illness. You may have limited time to assert your rights to compensation through a workers’ comp claim and/or third-party wrongful death lawsuit.
The at-fault person died in the accident that took my loved one’s life. Does that mean I cannot file a wrongful death claim?
No, it doesn’t. In most cases, your claim against the at-fault person for your loved one’s death survives the death of that at-fault person. You and your family likely have the right to take legal action against that at-fault person’s estate.
If your loved one died in a car accident in which the at-fault driver also died, you and your family can likely sue the at-fault driver’s estate and seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance coverage.
Keep in mind, too, that the party you view as most at fault for your loved one’s death may not be the only party who owes a liability to you and your family. An experienced Eau Claire wrongful death lawyer can often investigate the facts of a tragic loss of life and identify other parties—ones you may not have thought of—who also bear responsibility under Wisconsin law for the loss, and should face accountability to you and your family for damages.
If an insurance company has already offered me a settlement payment relating to my loved one’s death, do I really need a lawyer?
Yes, you do. Engaging in discussions with any insurance company about a wrongful death settlement on your own puts your valuable legal rights at extreme risk.
Liability insurance companies representing at-fault parties in a wrongful death case know they may end up owing potentially large sums of money to grieving spouses and families who hire skilled Eau Claire wrongful death lawyers to represent them. Sometimes, those insurers try to limit the size of their liability by offering quick, low-dollar settlements directly to spouses and families, before they hire a lawyer and learn how much they truly deserve to receive.
The insurance companies hope the spouse/family will take the money, and thereby let the insurance company and its policyholder off the hook for a potentially much larger payment.
By hiring an Eau Claire wrongful death lawyer, you and your family protect yourselves against getting taken advantage of by an unscrupulous insurance company. A lawyer can advise you about how much money you should expect to receive in a settlement or a jury trial so that you can make a well-informed decision about whether to take or reject an offer from an insurance company.
Hiring an attorney also puts you and your family in the most favorable position possible to secure maximum compensation for your loss by giving you an advocate who represents your interests above all others. Skilled Eau Claire wrongful death lawyers can negotiate with insurance companies and defense lawyers on your behalf, and take your case to court if needed to get the payment you deserve.
I think my loved one’s death was wrongful. What should I do?
We strongly encourage anyone who suspects their loved one died in wrongful circumstances to seek the advice of an experienced Eau Claire wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. You and your family’s rights to compensation for your loss may depend on making sure you take legal action before any important deadlines expire.
An attorney can also advise you about how to make important decisions that may affect your legal and financial rights and can take over communications with insurance companies, law enforcement, and even the media, so that you and your family have the space and time you need to grieve.
For a free case review and answers to additional questions you may have about wrongful death cases in Eau Claire, contact an experienced Eau Claire wrongful death lawyer at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers today.
How Can Our Lawyers Help You After an Eau Claire Wrongful Death?
A wrongful death action is complicated, and its success depends upon the skills and resources you have in bringing it. That is where an experienced Eau Claire wrongful death lawyer can help. A wrongful death lawyer can advise you about your options and help initiate and carry forward your claim to pursue the damages you deserve.
Proving wrongful death actions can require a dedicated professional who understands the legal process and the requirements to establish wrongful death under the law.
An Eau Claire wrongful death attorney will act on your behalf to gather evidence and investigate your claim; manage communications and negotiations with the other party, their attorney, and their insurer; and handle all of the complexities that arise in bringing a lawsuit in court, should that be necessary.
The Wisconsin statute of limitations requires a claimant to file a lawsuit within three years of the wrongful death. Any responsible party you do not bring a lawsuit against within this time gets off the hook.
You shouldn’t delay a wrongful death action. If you think you may have a claim, contact an Eau Claire wrongful death lawyer at (715) 226-6149 to explore your recovery options.
Eau Claire Office
402 Graham Ave.
Eau Claire, WI 54701