We all hear on the news every day about an individual who has been killed due to a car accident or at the hands of another human being. When there is a death that may have been caused by another person that has been unnamed or that “person” is a corporation, there can be causation issues in the case. This simply means that in order to recover any monetary damages against an individual or corporation, one typically has to prove negligence. One of the key factors to being able to prove negligence is that the damages were actually “caused” by the person being sued. We will do a quick review of negligence and how it relates to wrongful death cases. We will then give you a real life example that illustrates this principal. If you have any questions about whether the death of your loved one was due to negligence, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney immediately.
Brief History of Wrongful Death Cases
Most states have a version of the wrongful death statute that has been enacted in Michigan. However, before these statutes were on the books, the family and the heirs of the person killed could NOT sue for damages because the legal claim could only be brought by the injured person. Therefore, the claim literally died with them and could never be brought. This seemed unfair on so many levels and spurred the creation of these statutes that give the family of victims the right to receive monetary damages if a loved one is killed due the negligence of another person.
These statutes compensate close family members and other heirs for the death of their loved one which can include damages for lost financial support, pain and suffering prior to death or conscious pain and suffering, funeral expenses and many other types of damages discussed further on our website. Even though the damages available in a Michigan wrongful death case may be very different from a standard negligence case, the plaintiff or personal representative must till prove every element of a negligence case; duty, breach of duty, causation and damages.
Negligence – Is There a Duty of Due Care?
If the Defendant is to be found liable for negligence, they have to have owed the decedent or victim a duty of “due care”. While this definition will vary widely depending on the specific facts of your case, it makes sense that the only way to hold someone responsible for the death of another is that they owed them a duty of care, violated that duty, caused their death and the damages that ensue. An easy example is that a driver on the roadways owes others a duty of care when operating a motor vehicle. We take this for granted, but there can certainly be fact patterns where a Defendant and their attorneys will argue that they do NOT owe the Plaintiff a duty of care and therefore should have the case dismissed. This is why it is imperative that you hire an experienced Michigan wrongful death attorney to handle your case from start to finish.
Many times in a wrongful death case it will be the judge that determines whether or not there was a duty owed to the Plaintiff. He or she will consider many factors including whether or not there was a duty found in similar case, how foreseeable or predictable it was that harm could occur, and the level of action the defendant took in causing the death.
If a duty is determined to exist, the plaintiff must present evidence that the defendant breached that duty. When we look at the example above of a negligent driver, a plaintiff may have to present evidence that the driver was not paying attention to the road when he or she caused the accident. This is a real issue in today’s world with distracted driving wreaking havoc on the roadways due to an increase in texting, emailing, and checking voicemail.
Causation Example In Michigan
As we have stated earlier, the most familiar wrongful death action occurs when a negligent driver causes the death of another on Michigan roadways, However, there are other events that could cause the death of a loved one such as medical malpractice or reckless conduct by a corporation. A great example of this is when residents claim that chemicals dumped from factories or plants get into the water and cause diseases such as cancer. In our backyard, families from Ohio filed a lawsuit against the Whirpool Corporation which is based in Benton Harbor. They contended that chemical emissions from their Clyde, Ohio plant caused an increased number of cancers among children which could lead to wrongful death cases in the future. As we discussed earlier, the lawyers for Whirlpool tried to get the cases dismissed arguing that there was not causal connection between the childhood cancers and the company chemicals. However, after everyone had their chance to be heard, a federal judge allowed the case to go forward for 30 plaintiffs. The company continues to claim there is no causation and can argue that all the way to a trial. However, several whistleblowers have questioned the safety of chemicals being used and could cause a problem for the corporation.
If you think that a loved one was killed due to the negligence of another individual or corporation, call our Michigan wrongful death attorneys today for a free consultation. Call us at (269) 342-9900