Losing a loved one because of someone else’s negligence or reckless behavior can feel like an insurmountable burden to bear. While nothing can bring your loved one back to you, obtaining just compensation for the losses you have suffered can help you and your family begin the long journey toward emotional healing. If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence or reckless conduct, reach out to a compassionate wrongful death lawyer in Biloxi today.
Mississippi’s Wrongful Death Statute
Mississippi’s wrongful death statute allows recovery of damages suffered by the decedent between the time of injury and time of death, recovery of expenses such as funeral costs, and compensation for family members’ loss of the society, companionship, and financial of the decedent. As such, wrongful death cases are similar to typical personal injury cases. The major distinction is that, because the deceased can no longer seek just compensation for the injuries he or she sustained as a result of someone else’s negligence, a family member does so on his or her behalf. Wrongful death cases in Mississippi are not limited to negligent acts such as traffic accidents and accidents predicated on property owner negligence but can also include cases related to defective foods, medications, or other consumer goods (product liability).
Who Is Eligible to File a Wrongful Death Claim?
In the State of Mississippi, specific relatives of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim on his or her behalf (in addition to a personal representative of the deceased’s estate who will take care of specific expenses). The people who may file a claim include:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse
- The deceased’s surviving children
- The deceased’s surviving parent
- The deceased’s surviving siblings
When the deceased’s spouse brings a wrongful death claim, the damages awarded are split equally between the spouse and the deceased’s children. If he or she was not married and had no children, the deceased’s parents or siblings may forward the wrongful death claim. In such instances, the damages awarded are divided evenly between the surviving parents and/or siblings. A wrongful death lawyer in Mississippi can help identify who are “wrongful death beneficiaries” entitled to seek compensation as a result of a loved one’s death under Mississippi law.
In Mississippi wrongful death cases, damages are paid to the surviving wrongful death beneficiaries. Recoverable damages include:
- Medical Costs Incurred by the Decedent Prior to Death
- Funeral and Burial Costs
- Payments Related to Destroyed or Damaged Property: These could include, for example, damages to the deceased’s car if the accident involved was a car accident.
- Non-Economic Damages to Compensate Suffering by the Decedent: Wrongful Death Beneficiaries can recover fair compensation for the physical pain and emotional suffering endured by the Decedent between the time of injury and time of death.
The above payments are all intended to cover the deceased’s final bills that were generated as a result of the fatal accident in question, and to provide compensation for suffering endured by the Decedent from the injury causing eventual death. In the past, these types of damages had to be recovered on behalf of the Estate, but under the current Mississippi Wrongful Death Statute all damages can be recovered by the Wrongful Death Beneficiaries.
Additional recoverable damages are meant to compensate Wrongful Death Beneficiaries directly for their losses related to the death:
- Loss of Financial Support: The cash value of the net lost wages and benefits the deceased would have likely earned if he or she had lived to a natural age.
- Loss of Society and Companionship: The compensation for the emotional loss and bereavement suffered by the wrongful death beneficiaries as a result of the death of a loved one.
It is important to point out that the State of Mississippi imposes some damage caps that relate only to non-economic damages (damages that you cannot put an exact price tag on, such as pain and emotional suffering). These include:
- There is a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages resulting from medical malpractice.
- There is a $1,000,000 cap on non-economic damages resulting from any other type of personal injury or wrongful death claim.
Economic damages, such as medical bills, burial costs, and lost wages are not affected by these caps.
The Statute of Limitations
Statutes of limitations refer to the legal time limit by which one must bring a claim. If claims are not properly asserted in a Court of Law by that deadline, they are forever barred. Mississippi has four distinct wrongful death statutes of limitations that apply, and these are:
- If your loved one’s death is deemed to be the result of the responsible party’s intentional act – such as assault or battery – you have only one year from the time of death to bring your wrongful death claim.
- If your loved one’s death is deemed to be the result of negligence by a government affiliated Medical Provider (such as a County Hospital or its employee) – you have only one year from the time of death to bring your wrongful death claim. Similarly, if the death was caused by the negligence of any other government entity (such as a law enforcement officer running a red light), any claim must be brought within one year.
- If your loved one’s death is deemed to be the result of negligence by a private Medical Provider – you have only two years from the time of death to bring your wrongful death claim.
- If your loved one’s death was caused solely by the at-fault party’s negligence, you have three years from the time of death to bring your wrongful death claim.
Wrongful death claims can be complicated – in addition to being emotionally harrowing. It is a good idea to consult with an experienced wrongful death attorney sooner rather than later, to ensure that you are familiar with all your rights and the deadlines that apply to potential claims.
Civil vs. Criminal Charges
A wrongful death case is a civil case that is adjudicated in civil court. As such, it can only seek monetary damages – and cannot lead to prison time for the at-fault party. This can be very confusing for those who’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence – or worse. The fact is, however, if the action that led to your loved one’s death was purposeful, such as an assault, the perpetrator can face both criminal charges and civil charges (your wrongful death claim). Even if the at-fault party is not convicted of a crime, he can be found liable in a civil court for damages caused by a wrongful death.
Don’t Put off Consulting with an Experienced Biloxi Wrongful Death Attorney
If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence, you’re going through a difficult chapter in your life that can feel insurmountable. Christopher Van Cleave at Van Cleave Law – proudly serving Biloxi – is a compassionate wrongful death attorney who has the empathy, experience, and resources to help. While nothing will return your loved one to you, obtaining just damages can help you and your family move forward. To schedule a free initial consultation, please don’t hesitate to call us at (228) 432-7826 today.