Iowa doesn’t define a wrongful death in a particular legal statute, so it is assumed that a wrongful death is any death that is caused by someone else’s negligence that should have been avoided. For example, if a drunk driver causes a car accident that ends another person’s life, then they have caused a wrongful death.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident that could have been prevented had the liable party been more careful, then you are probably wondering how a wrongful death claim or lawsuit works in Iowa. In this blog entry, we will take a look at the basics of a wrongful death claim to hopefully help you get a better grasp of the situation and what you should be doing next to seek justice for your loved one.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
Not just anyone who knew the deceased person can file a wrongful death claim in Iowa. Only specific parties have that opportunity.
There are four primary parties who can file a wrongful death claim, including the deceased’s:
- Estate administrator
Only one wrongful death claim can be filed following a wrongful death. That is to say, if a claim has already been filed by a deceased person’s spouse, then their children cannot also file a claim unless it is filed against a different defendant and/or involves different damages. Furthermore, Iowa courts usually expect the estate administrator to be the first party to file a wrongful death claim. The other parties should only file a claim if the administrator cannot or will not.
Lastly, if someone dies without naming an estate administrator, then the court will choose an administrator. This court-appointed administrator will usually be a spouse or adult child if possible.
How Long Can You Wait Before Filing?
Iowa uses a two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims. You have two years from the date of the deceased person’s death to file a claim. Otherwise, the court can dismiss with prejudice any claim filed afterward. It is important to note that the two-year statute of limitations begins on the day of death, not the day of injury, so you might have more time to file your claim than you originally thought.
The safer option to avoid missing a filing deadline is to speak with an attorney shortly after your loved one passes away. They can file a claim on your behalf, making certain that it is filed before the statute of limitations expires. Even if your claim is not 100% ready, your attorney might advise filing it anyway just to stop the statute of limitations from ending. Once a claim is filed, it can be resolved across a much greater length of time, so you will not necessarily be rushed to reach a settlement or to take it to court.
What Damages Can Your Claim Include?
The purpose of a wrongful death claim is to secure financial damages in the name of the deceased. If successful, the compensation recovered will be paid to the deceased person’s family and/or estate. The allocation of damages will depend on the type of damage that has been rewarded.
Collectible damages in your wrongful death claim could include:
- Medical costs accrued due to the deceased’s final medical treatments
- Funeral and burial costs
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased and the claimants
- Value of daily or household services once performed by the deceased
- Wages and earnings the deceased would have earned in life
How to Get a Wrongful Death Claim Started
Beginning a wrongful death claim relies upon being able to identify the parties liable for your loved one’s untimely passing, using evidence to prove that liability, and calculating the total damages you are owed. All of these steps can be complicated if you are not familiar with Iowa’s liability laws, though. Relying on a local wrongful death attorney to help form and file your claim might be the easiest way to get your case moving without adding too much stress on your own shoulders.
If you live in Waterloo, Iowa, and you need a wrongful death claim attorney to manage your claim with both professionalism and compassion, then you can count on Ball, Kirk & Holm. We know that you are going through what might be the most difficult moments in your life, which is why we are always careful to proceed with wrongful death claims in a way that considers your best interests and your comfort. To get more details about our legal services and how to get a wrongful death claim started in Iowa, you can call (319) 220-0416 and schedule a free case evaluation with our firm.