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Wrongful Death

A claim for damages due to the death of a family member because of the negligence of someone else is known as a "Wrongful Death" claim.

Minnesota Law allows the "next of kin" of the decendent to make civil claims for compensation. The next of kin are the spouse and first-line blood relatives, including grandparents, parents, siblings, and children.

The first step is appointment of a trustee by a Minnesota District Court Judge. This person is typically the spouse of the decendent or the closest next of kin. The trustee should not have any possible fault or have any conflicts of interest.

Once the trustee is appointed, the claim proceeds to obtain a recovery.

What is recoverable?

No-Fault Benefits

Accident Reconstruction

Sample Cases

What is recoverable?

Accidental Death Claims Procedural Steps:

1

Court order - appointment of trustee for next of kin

2

Recovery of wrongful death damages from at-fault party insurance

3

Court order - distribution of money recovered to the next of kin


Damages In Wrongful Death Cases

Minnesota Law allows for recovery of economic loss such as lost wages and loss of earning capacity over the course of the decedent’s life.

Minnesota also allows for recovery of non-economic loss, which is defined as the loss of companionship, comfort, advice, guidance, counsel, aid, assistance, protection, and society. Damages are not allowed for grief or sorrow.

How is the recovery divided among the next of kin?

At the end of claim, after money has been recovered, the trustee files a petition with the Court setting forth a plan for distribution of the funds among the next of kin. Usually the family has agreed to the plan, and the Court follows the family’s distribution plan. If there is disagreement about distribution the Court will hold a hearing and decide on a proper distribution.

Wrongful Death: No-Fault Benefits

What is available to the next of kin?

Insurance will be available from your own auto policy or the policy of the vehicle in which the decedent was riding which typically provides the following benefits:

Funeral Expenses ($2,000 limit)
Medical Expenses ($20,000 limit)
Wage Loss ($250/wk. max.)
Replacement Services

Early accident reconstruction is often critical to the outcome of serious injury and death cases. The first few days following an accident can mean the difference between success and failure of the civil claims. Law enforcement will usually measure and mark the scene of an accident, and the markings and physical evidence will remain for a few days on the roadway.

By retaining an experienced personal injury lawyer within the first few days, your counsel can bring in their own expert accident reconstruction to preserve the evidence and obtain the best foundation to prove fault and protect your claims. Investigators can be brought in to interview witnesses before the insurance company adjusters obtain statements.

Significant injuries and death cases will cause the insurance companies to act quickly to find ways to defend the claims and minimize what they pay. By acting quickly an experienced injury lawyer can preserve the evidence and assure the success of the claim.

 

Experience - In Cases Just Like Yours.

The sample cases described here are examples of the wrongful death cases we have handled and illustrate how we have been able to help our clients prevail. Every case is unique, but these real-life examples can help you understand that the complex issues you are sure to face have been successfully resolved before, for people just like you.

Head-on collision on icy roads takes the life of a mother of three.

Location :: Owatonna

Icy roads caused two cars to collide, killing Amy, a mother of three young boys. All of the drivers shared fault for the accident, with the state patrol and the accident reconstruction experts showing both drivers were partially responsible. But the insurance company for one driver wouldn’t pay despite the testimony of their own insured accepting responsibility. The family was willing to settle if the company would pay its $60,000 policy limits, but the insurance company refused. After eight days of trial the jury found both drivers at fault and awarded Amy’s family $4,600,000.

Passenger killed in road rage accident.

Location :: Hastings

A night out with friends ended in tragedy for the family of sixteen year old Sue. A truck entering the freeway thought he had been cut off and decided to return the favor. As the drivers jockeyed for position, Sue begged the driver to stop. The truck slammed into the car Sue was riding in, causing it to flip on the highway. Sue survived the car rolling over, but seconds later they were hit by another car and Sue was killed instantly. Accident reconstruction and witness testimony was critical in proving how this tragedy unfolded. Sue’s family was devastated. Sue’s father had left years earlier, and the family relied on the strength and leadership of Sue, who was the oldest of five children. Sue’s case was submitted to Arbitration. After hearing from all the people involved, the Arbitrator awarded Sue’s family the insurance proceeds and the resolution was approved by a District Court Judge.

Improper transportation of farm equipment causes fatal collision.

Location :: Red Wing

Transporting farm equipment on highways and country roads can be very dangerous. Deborah was driving into town to work the overnight shift at the hospital when a local farmer was towing a wide implement and heading in the opposite direction. The implement was not properly marked and illuminated. As the sun went down, the wide edge of the implement was not visible to Deborah, who struck it while crossing a bridge. Accident reconstruction was able to prove the implement was over the center line and Deborah’s family was able to win their case, recovering the insurance proceeds for her family members.

Improper maintenance causes tire blowout, killing husband and father.

Location :: LeSueur

Jon and two co-workers were driving to work when a dump truck suddenly veered over the centerline, killing Jon instantly. The trucking company tried to avoid fault by claiming the tire blowout caused the driver to lose control and it was an “unavoidable accident”. Discovery of the trucking company records showed shoddy maintenance and trucking experts demonstrated the driver should have controlled the truck despite the flat tire. By showing that the accident could have been avoided and by demonstrating the crushing personal and financial loss suffered by Jon’s family, a settlement of $1,300,000 was obtained at pre-trial mediation.

Mother of four killed by drunk driver.

Location :: Rochester

Kathryn was a wife and mother of four. A drunk driver crossed the centerline just outside of Stewartville, Minnesota, hitting Kathryn’s sedan head-on. Kathryn’s only daughter was sitting in the back seat of the car when they were hit, and survived the crash. The emotional trauma of what she witnessed left her scarred. The family’s claims against the drunk driver needed to assist and cooperate with the prosecutor’s criminal trial against the driver, who was ultimately sentenced to jail time. By making sure the family’s claims focused not only on the wrongful death damages arising from the death of Kathryn, but also including the mental and emotional damage done to the daughter, we were able to recover the full policy limits of all of the insurance policies.

Construction site accident results in accidental death.

Location :: Blue Earth

Mike was a contractor working on a remodeling project. He was provided with scaffolding which had been set up by the general contractor. By failing to properly secure the scaffold to the building, the general contractor put Mike in a dangerous position. Mike fell fifteen feet to the frozen ground, striking his head. He suffered a brain bleed, and died a few days later. By engaging the best experts on construction site safety, we were able to demonstrate that the general contractor had not followed standard procedure in securing the scaffold. Mike’s family was able to reach a settlement at a court ordered mediation.

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