Every year, hundreds of Oregon families receive the news that no one ever wants to hear. They get a phone call or a knock on the door to tell them that a family member has been killed in a car accident. In many instances, a situation that is already a nightmare gets even worse when the family finds out they have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence. Portland fatal car crash lawyers are constantly confronted with people who have lost their spouses and are wondering what the future holds, emotionally as well as economically. In cases like this, they may be advised to make a claim for compensation for wrongful death. This type of claim is allowed in Oregon, but there are several factors to be considered before proceeding.
What is a Wrongful Death claim?
In Oregon, a wrongful death is determined to have occurred when someone dies as a direct result of the negligence of another person or persons when another person or person are definitely liable for that death. Of course, this doesn’t just happen in car crashes. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, workers on construction sites or victims of unprovoked assaults, etc., can all be victims of wrongful deaths. In such cases, the relatives or spouse of the person who was killed is entitled under Oregon law to make a claim for compensation.
My loved one had life insurance. Can I still make a wrongful death compensation claim?
It’s not just loss of income that is compensated in a wrongful death claim in Oregon, although most states do only allow compensation for economic loss. In Oregon, other types of loss are taken into account. Compensation for a wrongful death claim is determined based on a wide variety of factors, and all of the following areas will be considered when determining an award:
- Medical expenses for the victim before they died
- Loss of companionship, sorrow and mental anguish of the spouse and family
- The loss of income which could have been reasonably expected to be earned by the person who died in their lifetime
- The loss of the protection, care and assistance the person who died could reasonably have been expected to provide to his spouse or family
- Medical benefits, pension and other entitlements that have been lost as a result of the death
- The loss of inheritance that could reasonably have been expected had the victim not suffered an untimely death
- Funeral and memorial expenses
- Compensation for any property damage that occurred in the accident that caused the death
- Pain and suffering of the victim before they died
In Oregon, Portland fatal car crash lawyers can seek noneconomic damages of up to $500,000, under Statute ORS 30.010-30.100. Economic damages, on the other hand, are not capped.
Who determines the value of compensation for wrongful death claims?
If an insurance company refuses to settle a wrongful death claim, it can go to trial, at which stage the Portland fatal car crash lawyer will have to prove to a jury not only that the defendant was either guilty of negligence which caused the death, or was otherwise liable for the death, but will also have to prove conclusively the amount of compensation the victim’s spouse or family are claiming is reasonable and adequate, but not more than that. Punitive damages are sometimes available as well, in cases where it can be proven the defendant acted in a malicious or intentional way to cause the death. Punitive damages are seen as a way of punishing such actions, and Oregon courts can legally make such awards to plaintiffs.
Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims
Even though Oregon has what would be considered progressive laws regarding wrongful death claims, they also have a very strict statute of limitations for making such claims. If a plaintiff is even a day late, their case will be dismissed, regardless of its validity. Even if the case is being settled out of court, a claim will have had to be lodged before the statute of limitations expires, or no compensation can be claimed from the defendant. In Oregon, the statute of limitations is a bit complex, because it doesn’t apply to the date from which the victim died. The law states that the claim must be filed within three years from the date of the injury which led to the death. In any event, contacting a knowledgeable team of Portland fatal car crash lawyers would be a wise first step.
Losing a loved one in tragic circumstances is a nightmare no one should ever have to live with, and to compound it with the prospect of financial hardship is almost inhuman. Finally, add in a situation where the death of a spouse, parent, child or other family member is caused by someone else’s gross negligence, and you can just about to begin to understand how people reach breaking point. While there can never be adequate compensation for the loss of a family member, at least it’s possible to ease the financial burden. It’s important, however, not to delay. Talk to a firm of dedicated and compassionate Portland wrongful death lawyers as soon as you feel up to doing so about how to proceed with your wrongful death claim. They’ll guide you through the process gently and with a sympathetic ear, then fight to ensure you get the compensation you and your family deserve.