Death on the job is a sad reality that all too many Louisiana families face. When a loved one dies on the job, the victim’s family is not only left with an emotional hole, but a financial gap as well. Children, siblings and spouses who may have relied on the deceased’s income can face economic hardship. Fortunately, a wrongful death lawsuit can help ease this financial burden.
A wrongful death lawsuit seeks to recover damages a surviving family member or estate has suffered by the negligent death of a family member at the hands of another. Since these suits are brought on behalf of surviving family members, compensation cannot be recovered for injuries that are personal to the deceased. This means that pain and suffering and mental distress damages cannot be recovered through a wrongful death lawsuit. However, lost wages and other financial losses faced by the surviving family can be recovered.
A wrongful death is a death that is caused by the negligent act or omission of another. In certain circumstances, if the death is proven to be caused intentionally, a jury may be more likely to award a larger recovery. However, proving an intentional act can be difficult. This was illustrated recently in a case where a man was fatally wounded aboard a ship when he was struck by a crane load.
After the man’s death, his son filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming that the crane operator, whom he alleged was under the influence of drugs, intentionally swung the crane into his father. The district judge dismissed the suit as frivolous and the son appealed. The Court of Appeals agreed with the district judge, finding that the plaintiff’s claims did not assign any error to the district judge. Essentially, this means that the district judge did not error in his decision to dismiss the claim which, in turn, means that the son had failed to provide any evidence that suggested that his father’s death was caused by the negligent act or omission of another.
The plaintiff’s claim in this case that his father’s death was intentional fell short. In order to prove intent, a plaintiff must convince the court that the wrongdoer had the mental element of knowingly committing the act. Proving this element requires strong physical evidence and reliable witness testimony. A failure to provide these elements to the court likely will result in a dismissal or denial of the claim.
Since proving intent is difficult it might be in a plaintiff’s best interest to claim that simple negligence caused a wrongful death. To prove negligence the plaintiff must establish four elements. First, the plaintiff must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. Second, the defendant must be shown to have breached that duty of care by some act or omission. Third, the plaintiff must prove that the breach of duty caused the injuries contained in the claim. Fourth, and lastly, the plaintiff must establish that those injuries resulted in some sort of damage to the plaintiff. These elements are easier to prove than those for intentional acts and can lead to a higher rate of recovery.