Can You Sue for Wrongful Death in a Motorcycle Accident Claim?
Motorcycle accidents are some of the most deadly types of auto accidents. When the victim dies due to their injuries, the family carries the burden of financial damages. Because wrongful death falls under the umbrella of tort law, family members can seek compensation for their financial and emotional losses. If you lost someone close to you in a deadly motorcycle accident, you might have the right to sue for damages, and a wrongful death attorney can help you understand your rights along the way.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death After a Motorcycle Accident?
The ability to sue for a wrongful death case is not available to everyone who knew the deceased person. In most states, the following persons can sue for wrongful death in a motorcycle accident claim:
- Either one or both parents of the deceased
- The deceased’s surviving spouse
- Any minor children of the deceased, typically represented by the surviving spouse
- Adult children of the deceased
- Distant relatives, such as siblings, grandparents, aunts, or uncles if the deceased was single and had no children
- A representative of the deceased person’s estate
However, some states limit the list even further. For example, Michigan only allows the family to sue for wrongful death through a representative of the deceased’s estate. However, the representative may be a member of the family.
How Do You Prove Liability in a Wrongful Death Case?
As the plaintiff in a wrongful death case, the burden of proving liability falls on you and your attorney. This means you must prove to the court that the defendant’s negligent behavior caused the accident that led to the death of your loved one. That process involves the following components:
- Proof of duty of care. You, the plaintiff, must prove the defendant owed your loved one a duty of care. For example, since this case involves a motorcycle accident, you must prove the defendant was responsible for following the rules of the road and safe driving practices to keep other motorists safe.
- Violation of duty of care. You must prove the defendant violated that duty of care. In the case of a motorcycle accident, you may do so by establishing the defendant was speeding, driving under the influence, or violating any other rule of the road.
- Cause of the accident. You must show that the defendant’s violation of their duty of care led to the accident that caused the wrongful death.
Without these elements, you likely do not have a case against the defendant. For example, if the defendant chose to speed on the road, but the death occurred as a result of your loved one’s motorcycle undergoing mechanical failure, the cause of death does not directly relate to the defendant’s violation of their duty of care.
What Is the Burden of Proof?
As the plaintiff in a wrongful death case, you also carry the responsibility of meeting the burden of proof for each one of the elements above. The burden of proof in criminal cases is very high at “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, it is typically significantly lower in a civil case. Most states require proof to support negligence to a degree acceptable by a “preponderance of the evidence.” Other states may accept a burden of proof showing the defendant’s actions “more likely than not” caused your loved one’s death.
Typically, your attorney will be able to settle the case before it reaches the trial phase. However, if it does, the court will decide if you met the burden of proof required by state law. They measure that standard by the credibility of your evidence, including witnesses. Should you fail to meet that burden, you will not be able to recover any compensation for your losses.
What Are the Recoverable Damages in a Motorcycle Wrongful Death Claim?
Compensatory damages are unique in any personal injury case. They specifically refer to the losses you incurred due to someone’s careless or intentional act that caused you harm. However, in a wrongful death case, the damages are slightly different because you may be seeking compensation for losses that occurred before and after the death of your loved one.
Compensatory Damages in Wrongful Death
Compensatory damages have economic and non-economic components. For example, the economic damages in a wrongful death case may include:
- Medical debt. Any medical debt your loved one incurred if they underwent treatment while alive is potentially recoverable. This may include ambulance expenses, hospital stays, emergency room expenses, medications, surgeries, and other medical costs collected during treatment.
- Lost wages. If you relied on your loved one’s income to survive, you could seek compensation for the loss of future income.
- Loss of benefits. If your loved one provided benefits, such as healthcare insurance and retirement plans for you or your family, you might claim that among damages.
- Loss of inheritance. Family members of loved ones who are listed as beneficiaries in their estate plan may request compensation for inheritance lost as a result of their untimely death.
- Property costs. You can request compensation for the repair or replacement of property damaged in the accident as well as the value of goods and services the deceased would have provided.
- After death costs. The at-fault party should bear the financial responsibility for funeral and burial or cremation costs.
The non-economic damages are those losses without a specific monetary value. For example, a family member or spouse may ask for compensation for the following:
- The pain and suffering your loved one endured before death
- The loss of companionship
- The loss of consortium if the loved one was your spouse
- The emotional suffering you endured from the loss of love, affection, and nurturing provided by your loved one
With legal representation, you have a legal professional with experience in adequately expressing the emotional, financial, and physical distress a family goes through as the result of losing a loved one to a tragic, avoidable motorcycle accident. It requires providing sufficient evidence and an understanding of precedent.
Punitive Damages in Wrongful Death
The court only awards punitive damages to punish the at-fault party for egregious conduct or gross negligence. Many states do not allow punitive damages in wrongful death cases, particularly if the defendant is a governmental agency. Even in states that allow punitive damages from wrongful death, they are most present in nursing home or elder abuse cases.
Should You Hire a Wrongful Death Attorney To Assist You With Your Claim?
In the aftermath of a deadly motorcycle accident, you should have the ability to grieve the loss of your loved one without the burden of medical debt and lost income. The wrongful death attorneys at Mike Morse Law Firm can help you get the compensation you deserve. You do not have to navigate the complexity of the legal system alone. We will handle all the legwork, including communicating with the insurance companies and collecting all the evidence to support your claim. Additionally, we work on contingency, which means you pay us nothing unless we win a settlement or award for you. Call us any time of day or night at 855-MIKE-WINS. Our phone line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We are also available to chat online, or you can fill out our online case evaluation. Contact Mike Morse Law Firm today to schedule your free consultation.