Wrongful Death in MN: What You Need to Know
There are few things in life as painful as losing someone you love – especially unexpectedly and prematurely. When that death occurs due to the negligence of another party, the grief and stress can feel overwhelming.
Even when the negligent actions of another were not intentional, the result is the same. Your loved one is gone. Now you must face a world where you don’t have that person – and in many cases, you don’t have their financial support.
While no amount of money can bring back someone taken from you too soon, wrongful death is a legal remedy many people choose to pursue in Minnesota when the death occurred due to the negligence of another. Here is what you need to know about wrongful death in Minnesota, including who can pursue a lawsuit and how to file one.
Wrongful Death: What Is it?
Each state defines wrongful death by its standards. In Minnesota, close family members or spouses of those who are deceased have a period of three years to pursue a wrongful death suit. However, some events must take place for a person to qualify to bring that type of lawsuit in the state. They must meet these requirements:
- A person is deceased
- The death occurred because of the negligence of another or because the responsible party intended to cause harm
- The court has appointed the next of kin or the surviving spouse as the trustee
Many different scenarios lead to wrongful death suits. Car crashes, murders, animal attacks, assaults, and even accidents that cause death at amusement parks can meet the standards to bring a wrongful death suit in the state.
Understanding that these cases can take quite a long time to resolve is vital. The death must undergo investigation. It is important to contact an attorney soon after the death of a loved one to see if your case qualifies and to take the next steps.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit?
In Minnesota, only certain people can bring a wrongful death suit. The next of kin, defined as grandparents, parents, children, adopted children, cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, siblings, or surviving spouses, can petition the court to be the appointed trustee. Once the court completes the petition, a wrongful death lawsuit can be pursued in the state.
How Damages Are Determined
Damages are determined in wrongful death suits by investigating the wrongful death claims. An experienced wrongful death attorney has a team of skilled people who can help analyze your wrongful death case and determine the recovered damages.
The most common damages received in a wrongful death case include:
- Funeral expenses,
- Monetary losses related to the deceased person’s loss of income
- Damages for loss of counsel, assistance, protection, and guidance suffered by surviving members of the family due to the death
- Medical expenses related to the death of your loved one
Pecuniary injury, also referred to as financial injury, is the main focus of wrongful death lawsuits. To be awarded the financial compensation you seek, juries consider several factors. These factors include the age of your loved one at the time of death, their health before the accident, their life expectancy, and their earning capacity.
In most cases, damages awarded get split between heirs in an agreed-upon amount. However, the court will divide the damages if an agreement is not reached.
How Much Time Do You Have?
As previously mentioned, states have statutes of limitations on wrongful death cases. In Minnesota, the statute of limitations is three years from when the person died. However, you can file up to six years after the event that caused the injury that ultimately led to their death.
There are a few exceptions to this statute of limitations. First, any death resulting from medical malpractice must have a wrongful death suit filed within three years of the death but no longer than four years after the error that led to the death occurred. The second exception is in murder cases where no statute of limitation exists. A wrongful death suit can be filed at any point.
If you fail to meet those deadlines for your case, the court will not hear it, and you simply cannot proceed.
The unexpected death of a loved one can be difficult, but waiting to bring a wrongful death suit may only make things more difficult in the long run. Meet with an attorney as soon as possible.
About the Author:
A lifelong Minnesotan, founding partner Ronald R. Envall has spent his entire legal career fighting for the little guy, focusing on workers’ compensation, Social Security, and personal injury cases. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers as a Top Rated attorney in Duluth, placing him in the top 5 percent of all workers comp lawyers across the state. In his free time, Mr. Envall serves on the boards of several area government and nonprofit organizations and is a member of the Minnesota Association for Justice, which supports consumer rights.