Michigan Wrongful Death Lawsuit:
If a person is killed due to the wrongful conduct or negligence of another individual or group of persons, the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs are entitled to compensation against those responsible for the decedent’s death. This type of claim is called a wrongful death claim.
Under traditional Michigan common law, when an individual died, any claims he may have had died along with him. Therefore, the deceased’s heirs could not file a claim for compensation either for the loss of the deceased or for their own loss.
In 1963, the Michigan legislature changed the law and passed what’s commonly known as the Michigan Wrongful Death Act, currently MCL 600.2922. Under this Act, when a person dies due to the wrongful act, neglect, or fault of another, the person or corporation responsible for causing the death can be held liable for damages.
Who May Sue:
Under the Wrongful Death Act, only a personal representative for the estate may file a lawsuit. Therefore before a lawsuit is even filed, an estate must be opened in accordance with Michigan probate law and a personal representative must be appointed or approved. Once the personal representative files a lawsuit, within 30 days the personal representative must serve a copy of the lawsuit and notice upon any person entitled to damages.
So who are these people? Under the eyes of the law, only certain individuals who survive the deceased are entitled to compensation. Although this is not an exhaustive list, typically these individuals are:
1. deceased’s spouse
6. brothers and sisters, and
7. children of the deceased’s spouse
What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
A wrongful death case is not a distinct claim. Essentially, it is a derivative claim from the underling negligent action that caused the death in the first place. For example, a wrong death case can be filed in court following a car accident fatality or a medical malpractice case resulting in death.
It is also important to understand what a wrongful death claim is not. It is not a criminal action. It will not send the wrongdoer to jail or mandate the wrongdoer pay a fine or complete community service. Instead, it is a civil action for compensation, usually in the form of pain and suffering, but sometimes includes the payment of lost wages, medical expenses and funeral cost reimbursement.
Who May Held Responsible in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Under the Wrongful Death Act, any person or corporation who caused the wrongful act or negligence resulting in the decedent’s death may be held responsible in a wrongful death claim. This can include drivers, doctors, hospitals and other third parties.
In addition, municipalities – such as cities of counties and their employees – may be held liable under the Wrongful Death Act. However, under Michigan law, municipalities and their employees are immune from lawsuit in certain situations. This means, under established sovereign immunity rules, you cannot sue a municipality or its employees due a wrongful death in all situations.
What is the Statute of Limitations on a Wrongful Death Claim?
The statute of limitations – or the period in which a lawsuit must be filed to preserve a claim for damages – on a wrongful death claim varies depending on the type of underlying negligence claim.
In general, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death or survival action depends on the theory of recovery. Under MCL 600.5805, most cases involving personal injury have a three-year statue of limitations. Therefore, a wrongful death claim involving a car accident or slip-and-fall accident is 3 years.
However, the statute of limitations can vary depending on the type of underlying personal injury claim. For example, medical malpractice claims have their own rules that are very complicated.
What Type of Damages May Individuals Recover in a Wrongful Death Claim?
The different types of damages recoverable under a wrongful death claim are numerous. They include lost wages and reimbursement of medical expenses and funeral expenses. It also includes pain and suffering on the part of the heirs and beneficiaries, loss of companionship, loss of society and loss of financial support.
It is important to note that not all of these damages types are available against all defendants. For example, when the defendant is a municipality or governmental agency, the types of damages available to the estate is much more limited.
In addition, damage caps for medical malpractice and product liability cases extend to wrongful death cases brought under those two theories of liability.
If you or a loved one have any questions regarding a wrongful death case, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). There is no fee unless there is a recovery and we will be with you every step of the way.