The death of a loved one is always hard – but what about when someone else is responsible for the death? It can be almost impossible for you and your family to move on without pushing for the negligent party to pay for your damages. A wrongful death claim can give your family closure after the trauma of a life cut short. It can also help your future, offering compensation for financial and emotional losses as well as burial expenses. After the passing of a beloved family member, find out if you’re eligible to file a wrongful death claim in Montana.

Montana’s Wrongful Death Laws

Every state abides by its own wrongful death laws. The Montana Code, Section 27-1-513 defines “wrongful death” as one in which the wrongful act or neglect of one person causes injuries to and the death of another. Similar to a personal injury claim, attorneys base a wrongful death claim on someone else’s negligence or intent to harm. However, the plaintiff is striving for compensation for the decedent’s damages and the family’s. Not everyone can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Montana. You must be one of the following parties:

  • Personal representative of the deceased person’s estate. This might be someone the deceased person named in a will or someone the court names during probate.
  • Parents of a deceased child under the age of 18. One or both parents in these cases may file for wrongful death. If the child had no parents, the legal guardian may file.

Unlike criminal cases, in which the government or a local prosecutor brings the claim, private parties must bring wrongful death claims to the court themselves. This involves visiting your local civil courtroom and requesting the paperwork to start a wrongful death claim. A personal representative of the decedent’s estate may file a civil claim even if a criminal case is still underway against the defendant.

A party has no more than three years from the date of the death to file a claim in Montana. After this deadline, the courts may refuse to hear the case. The time limit increases to ten years if the death stemmed from homicide. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible after a wrongful death to begin your claim. Even if you think you missed your deadline, you may fall under an exception.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

Filing for wrongful death might be the estate representative’s job, but he or she is filing on behalf of the surviving family members, or the beneficiaries. It is the representative’s responsibility to divide any compensation won in a claim amongst the beneficiaries appropriately. Damages in wrongful death claims differ from typical personal injury cases. Families may recover for:

  • The decedent’s medical bills from the time of the accident to the date of death.
  • The decedent’s accident-related pain and suffering until death.
  • The decedent’s lost income, wages, promotions, and earnings.
  • Lost inheritance the decedent could have left were it not for untimely death.
  • Funeral and burial expenses.
  • Family’s expenses, including medical care for the decedent.
  • The surviving family’s mental anguish.
  • Loss of the decedent’s companionship, love, support, and guidance.
  • Loss of consortium.

It is the representative of the estate’s job to calculate how much the family is seeking in a wrongful death case. The representative must submit this amount in writing to the defendant. From there, the defendant may either offer a settlement amount or reject the claim. The case may then go to trial. If your family recently experienced the passing of a loved one because of someone else’s negligence, seek counsel from a Billings personal injury attorney right away.