Personal Injury Lawyer
Courts refer to a death that is caused without legal justification as a wrongful death. Self-defense is an example of a legal justification for causing a death.
Some wrongful deaths are caused intentionally, while others result from negligence. In some cases, such as a shooting in an apartment building, the shooter might be responsible for intentionally causing a death, while the building owner’s negligence might be a contributing cause of a wrongful death.
For example, people who rent an apartment in a security locked building have the right to expect that the locks will be maintained. The building owner’s failure to repair a broken lock might make it possible for a shooter to enter the building who has no business being there. Under those circumstances, courts typically recognize the owner’s shared responsibility for a wrongful death.
The failure to install and maintain adequate lighting in the apartment building parking lot is another example of negligence that might contribute to a wrongful death. A dark parking lot invites crime. Some of those crimes end with death from a shooting.
State Laws Govern Wrongful Death Cases After a Shooting at an Apartment
Each state recognizes the right to sue a person who caused or contributed to a wrongful death. However, state laws vary in many ways. The factors that govern compensation depend on state law. Some states allow relatives to recover compensation for their own pain and suffering because of a loved one’s death, while other states limit compensation to a family member’s loss of financial support and companionship.
Who can bring a wrongful death claim is also a function of state law. No state allows someone to bring a wrongful death lawsuit who has no relationship to the deceased shooting victim. The families of shooting victims should consult a security negligence and shooting lawyer to determine who can bring a wrongful death case.
People Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case After a Shooting at an Apartment
States generally take one of two approaches to the initiation of wrongful death lawsuits. Some states require the claim to be brought by the shooting victim’s estate. Other states allow family members to bring or join in the claim.
When the estate brings the claim, it is initiated by the shooting victim’s personal representative (known as an executor in some states). When family members bring the claim, state law might require one family member to bring the claim on behalf of all family members who are eligible to share compensation, or it might require all family members to participate in the lawsuit.
Whether the case is brought by the estate, one family member, or all eligible family members, states typically allow only one wrongful death claim. Everyone who has the right to recover wrongful death compensation must typically join in the same lawsuit. Some states allow relatives to opt out of a lawsuit, but doing so generally extinguishes their right to bring a separate claim.
Not all relatives can bring or participate in a wrongful death claim. Every state allows the victim’s spouse and minor children to recover compensation for a wrongful death. Some states allow adult children and parents to participate in the claim as well.
Some states allow relatives other than the spouse and minor children to share wrongful death compensation if they depended on the shooting victim for financial support. When only the estate can bring the claim, compensation is divided according to the terms of the victim’s will, or pursuant to state law that governs distribution of the estate of a person who dies without a will.
Determining who can bring or participate in a wrongful death claim can be complex. A wrongful death lawyer can advise families of shooting victims how to protect their rights.