Michigan Wrongful Death Statute
In Michigan, family members have the right to compensation when they lose someone to a personal injury caused by another person’s negligence or malicious intention. Under the Michigan Wrongful Death Statute, the at-fault party is liable for all financial and emotional losses associated with the victim’s death. But first, consider the best way to pursue that claim, what you can recover, and how a wrongful death attorney can help you and your family.
What Is the Michigan Wrongful Death Statute?
To summarize, Michigan’s statute defines wrongful death as any injury resulting in death that would otherwise constitute a personal injury claim had the victims survived. The person or corporation that would have been liable for the personal injury is now responsible for wrongful death. Additionally, any act that causes a pregnant woman to miscarry her fetus is also wrongful death, according to the statute. The cause can be a negligence-based accident, such as an auto accident or medical malpractice, or an intentional act, such as assault.
Some wrongful death cases may result in criminal and civil charges. For example, if your loved one died due to an assault, the assailant would face the criminal court, but you can also sue for damages through civil court simultaneously. These two cases are entirely separate, and you must provide evidence to support your wrongful death claim and your claim for damages. However, the burden of proof in a civil court is substantially lower than in a criminal court.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Wrongful Death?
Any personal injury case could potentially result in a wrongful death when the injuries are severe enough, or the circumstances lead to death following bodily harm. Some of the most common causes of wrongful deaths include:
- Auto accidents. Among the most dangerous auto accidents are those involving motorcycles and commercial trucks. Victims of these types of accidents can sustain severe injuries or death even when the vehicles involved travel at low speeds. Given that most personal injury cases generally involve auto accidents, it stands to reason that most wrongful death cases do as well.
- Medical malpractice. Healthcare professionals and facilities owe patients a reasonable duty of care to protect their health. Common examples of medical malpractice that can lead to wrongful death include prescription drug errors, such as prescribing the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, emergency department mistakes, birth injuries, and surgical errors.
- Work or construction injuries. Unsafe work environments cause many deaths, particularly in the construction industry. Workers can die from equipment accidents, falls, crushing, prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals, and more.
- Defective products. Defects during the design or manufacturing of a product or failure to adequately warn consumers about the dangers of a product can result in misuse, severe injuries, and death. In this case, the manufacturer would be liable.
- Bicycle accidents. Bicyclists are common in congested areas, such as urban cities, but their low visibility and vulnerability put them at a higher risk for death in an auto accident.
- Criminal acts. Assault or intentional harm can result in death, even when the assailant’s intent was not to cause death.
Other less common causes of wrongful death include slip and fall and watercraft accidents. A slip and fall can cause minor or severe injury depending on the depth of the fall and the condition of the person who fell.
Who Can Sue for a Wrongful Death In Michigan?
According to Michigan’s Wrongful Death Statute, only a personal representative of the deceased can file a lawsuit. This person is the executor of the victim’s estate, and they are often a family member. Additionally, they must inform the surviving family members entitled to damages about the lawsuit within 30 days of filing.
Family Members Eligible To Receive Damages
The statute explicitly names the relatives eligible to receive damages should the lawsuit produce an award for damages. Those able to recover losses include the deceased’s surviving children, including stepchildren, spouse, parents, siblings, grandparents, and anyone listed as a beneficiary in the estate plan. If the deceased had no surviving relatives from this list, the damages award would go to whoever would inherit the estate.
What Damages Can You Recover From a Wrongful Death Case?
The law refers to the liabilities in a personal injury case as compensatory damages. While there is no genuinely acceptable way to compensate for the untimely death of someone’s loved one, damages can help a family cope financially with their loss. The two types of compensatory damages are economic and non-economic, and they include:
- Medical expenses incurred after the accident and before your loved one’s death, including emergency department care, ambulance expenses, hospital stays, surgical procedures, and more
- Funeral costs
- Burial or cremation costs
- Physical pain and suffering your loved one endured following their injuries, including psychological distress
- The loss of companionship and society your loved one provided
- Loss of consortium for the deceased’s spouse
- The loss of financial support in the forms of income, inheritance, and benefits, such as retirement plans and healthcare coverage
- The loss of the nurturing and love provided
The victims’ families sometimes suffer from generalized anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. This is especially common in cases where the surviving family member was present when the wrongful death occurred. For example, a spouse who lost their wife or child due to medical malpractice during birth or someone who survived an auto accident when their family member did not may suffer substantial emotional and psychological damage.
Damages Caps in Michigan
Michigan does not have a cap on damages from all wrongful death cases universally. However, the cap set on medical malpractice cases still applies to circumstances ending in wrongful death. According to the statute, there is a lower cap of $476,600 on non-economic damages and a higher cap of $851,000. The higher cap applies to cases involving severe injuries in a medical malpractice case, such as permanent cognitive impairment, brain and spinal cord injuries, and permanent damage to reproductive organs. Death would also fall under the higher cap.
Can a Wrongful Death Lawyer Help You?
The stakes are often high in wrongful death cases, especially when family members depended on their loved one for financial support. With legal representation, you can significantly better your chances of receiving a fair settlement that adequately reflects the damages, allowing family members to grieve without the added financial and emotional stress. An experienced wrongful death attorney knows where to look for damages and how to prove the value of your claim. In addition, they take over the responsibilities of building your case, establishing the defendant’s liability, negotiating with the insurance company, and protecting your right to compensation.
Insurance companies typically have strict deadlines for wrongful death cases. To ensure you have every available opportunity to recover your losses, a wrongful death attorney will complete all the necessary paperwork and file everything for you. At Mike Morse Law Firm, we understand that no monetary amount can ever replace the loss of a loved one. However, we use our years of experience and expertise to pursue justice on your behalf. Your family should not suffer further because of another party’s negligence or malintent. Call us today at 855-MIKE-WINS. Our phone line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and our fees are nothing unless we win your case.