Wrongful death is something no one should go through, but sadly, it is a reality for some, including Utah residents. When it comes to wrongful death, there are statutes of limitations in Utah that must be followed. This means that you must file your lawsuit within a specific timeframe for Utah courts to consider it.
And that’s not all. When determining whether you can file a Utah wrongful death claim, you must consider several things. Let’s take a closer look.
6 Things to Consider When Filing a Utah Wrongful Death Claim
1.There are rules for wrongful deaths. It’s not as simple as deciding that your loved one’s death was wrongful and pursuing compensation for it. Instead, you must prove that the death was wrongful.
According to Utah Code, wrongful death must result from a wrongful act or neglect. Utah wrongful death claims fall into three categories: negligence-based incidents, medical malpractice, and intentional acts.
A negligence-based incident means that the wrongful death occurred due to someone else’s negligence. Had that person exercised caution, your loved one might still be alive. Many fatal car accidents fall under negligence-based wrongful death claims.
Medical malpractice wrongful death claims happen when your loved one passes away after a doctor fails to provide them with proper medical care, and that lack of care results in their death. Medical malpractice resulting in injury – but not death – is a separate crime.
Intentional acts, including crimes, that result in death are also classified as wrongful death. The difference between negligence and intention lies in why the action occurs.
Negligence means that not enough caution was taken to prevent injury or death from occurring, but it wasn’t thought out or pre-meditated. An intentional act means that the person who caused your loved one’s death acted intentionally, with the purpose of causing injury or death.
2.You must be an “heir” to file the lawsuit. In Utah, an heir is defined as the deceased’s surviving parents, spouse, and children. All children, including adopted and step-children, are qualified to file a Utah wrongful death claim if they are still children (under 18) and were dependent on the deceased.
If none of these relatives are alive, the next living blood relative becomes the heir. It is also possible for a personal representative or guardian to file a wrongful death claim. However, the surviving family members, not the personal representative, would be the ones to receive the damages.
3.The money you’re awarded must be used for specific purposes. Most of the time, when filing for wrongful death, the damages are requested for “compensatory damages.” This means that the money reimburses what was spent due to the wrongful death.
This can include funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses related to the deceased’s death, lost wages (both past and future), loss of inheritance, pain and suffering, and loss of affection, counsel, and advice.
Truly, when your loved one dies from wrongful death, there is a lot you lose. If you were dependent on that loved one for income or emotional support, those are damages you can pursue.
Compensatory damages are not the same as punitive damages, which are sometimes – but rarely – awarded. Punitive damages punish the neglect or intentions that caused the wrongful death, discouraging such actions in the future.
While punitive damages can be pursued, they are separate from wrongful death compensatory damage.
4.You only have two years to file a lawsuit. Filing a wrongful death claim can be a long, exhausting process. You might be aware that you qualify for wrongful death but want to hold off filing your claim until you’ve had time to process your grief.
However, the Utah statute of limitations states that you only have two years to file your claim. To be exact, you have two years after the date of your loved one’s death. If the claim is being filed against a government agency, you only have one year. The statute of limitations in Utah is similar to many other states in the country.
There are some caveats as to when the Utah statute of limitations begins. For example, you might not discover until a decade after your loved one’s passing that their death resulted from negligence or intentional harm.
For example, you might learn that several other patients from the same doctor died similarly and that their deaths could have been prevented had the physician provided the proper care.
Before learning this, you didn’t know there was anything out of the ordinary about their death. You would have to file your claim two years from when you learned about the doctor’s negligence/harm.
5.You need a personal representative to file a wrongful death claim. You can’t file it on your own. Your personal representative must file the claim in civil court. This is a unique aspect of the law regarding wrongful deaths since homicide cases require the prosecuting attorney to file the charges.
Your personal representative will file the claim and walk through the entire process with you and your attorney.
6.You can sue a variety of people for wrongful death claims. While the other driver in a car accident or a negligent medical provider might be your first thought, you can also sue companies, government agencies, and employers who played a role in your loved one’s death.
The key is proving that the individual or entity you sue is responsible for your loved one’s death. If you’re unsure whether your loved one’s death qualifies for wrongful death, an attorney can help you.
Contact Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson Today.
If your loved one died from another person’s negligence, malpractice, or intentional act, you have the right to receive compensation for your pain and suffering. The lawyers at Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson have over 150 years of combined experience and are here to fight for you to get you everything you deserve.
Call us at 801.500.4000 to schedule your free case evaluation and see how Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson can help you.