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Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case in Casper, Wyoming?

Losing a loved one due to another person or company’s careless, harmful, or negligent actions is a devastating tragedy, and when you face these heartbreaking circumstances, Wyoming law provides a path forward through a wrongful death lawsuit. These cases can provide financial compensation and a measure of accountability, even though all acknowledge they cannot truly make up for the loss of a loved one. Contact a wrongful death lawyer in Casper, WY if you have questions specific to your situation.

Defining Wrongful Death: Do You Have a Case?

A wrongful death claim asserts that a person’s death was caused by another party’s wrongful acts or omissions and would not have occurred without those wrongful acts. Common examples include car accidents, medical malpractice, defective products, and workplace accidents.

To win a wrongful death case, you must establish the same elements as a standard personal injury lawsuit: i.e., that the entity you’re bringing the case against had a duty of care to your loved one, that they breached this duty, that this was the direct cause of your loved one’s death, and that this death caused you to suffer damages.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case in Wyoming?

Unlike other states, Wyoming has a unique process for filing wrongful death lawsuits. Here, the right to file a claim lies solely with a court-appointed “wrongful death representative.” This individual (or in some cases individuals) is the only person authorized to bring a wrongful death claim under Wyoming law. They act on behalf of all potential beneficiaries.

If you wish to be the wrongful death representative, you must file a petition with the district court in the appropriate county. This could be where the deceased lived, where they died, where the defendant lives, or where a key event leading to death happened.

How Does the Court Choose the Wrongful Death Representative?

Wyoming law doesn’t prescribe strict rules for selecting the wrongful death representative other than that the court is to choose the person it feels is in the best position to represent the interests of everyone who is a potential beneficiary of the action. Some of the key considerations include:

Relationship to the Deceased

The court often gives preference to close family members, like spouses, children, or parents.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

The court aims to select someone with no conflicts of interest that might compromise their ability to represent all the beneficiaries fairly.

Actions Taken to Protect Potential Beneficiaries

If someone has already taken steps to protect the interests of potential beneficiaries (such as hiring an attorney or gathering evidence), the court may look favorably upon their petition.

The court can consider additional factors to decide who will best serve this role. Once the court appoints a wrongful death representative, that person gains the legal authority to initiate and manage the wrongful death claim. It’s important to understand that the court’s decision regarding the representative is final and cannot be appealed, so it’s always wise to work with a skilled wrongful death lawyer in Casper whether you are applying to be the wrongful death representative or need to challenge someone else’s claim.

In the first case, you will need to show the court why you are the most trustworthy person to bring this claim on behalf of everyone who may benefit. In the second, you may have to contest the attempt by someone you believe is untrustworthy to secure this appointment.

Who Are the Beneficiaries of a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

It’s crucial to remember that the wrongful death representative is not bringing an action solely for themselves but for the benefit of everyone who has a claim. The damages recovered are intended solely for the beneficiaries of the deceased. Under Wyoming law, the following individuals have the potential to benefit:

  • Surviving Spouse (The deceased’s spouse holds priority among the beneficiaries)
  • Children
  • Parents (Only in the absence of a surviving spouse or children)
  • Other Potential Beneficiaries (In limited circumstances, other individuals who can demonstrate financial dependence on the deceased may also have claims)

How Is Wrongful Death Compensation Distributed?

The court considers factors such as the relationship of each beneficiary to the deceased, their specific financial losses resulting from the death, and any other relevant needs they may have. While beneficiaries generally share the proceeds, the court has some discretion to adjust the allocation for fairness based on individual circumstances.

One key thing to note is that if the deceased left a surviving spouse, children, or parents, creditors cannot force these family members to pay off the deceased’s debts with their settlement. This means the creditors cannot put a lien on the settlement, which is good news. Talk to your lawyer to learn more.

What Happens After the Wrongful Death Representative Is Appointed?

The wrongful death representative has a two-year period (the statute of limitations) to formally file the lawsuit, except in some limited cases with medical malpractice. The representative has substantial responsibilities in this role. They must always act in the best interests of all potential beneficiaries and strive to achieve a fair outcome in the case, and their key tasks include gathering information, working closely with an attorney, and filing the formal wrongful death lawsuit.

Additionally, the representative is a central figure throughout the case, advocating for the rights and needs of everyone entitled to compensation. In many wrongful death cases, negotiations lead to an out-of-court settlement, and the representative plays a crucial role in these discussions, too, ensuring any proposed settlement is fair to all involved.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In a wrongful death claim, beneficiaries can potentially recover various types of damages intended to address both the tangible and intangible losses they have suffered due to their loved one’s death. These can include compensation for the deceased’s lost earnings and the financial support they would have provided for their dependents. Additionally, beneficiaries may seek reimbursement for the deceased’s medical bills related to the fatal incident as well as costs associated with their funeral.

Wyoming recognizes the profound impact on close family members, and compensation may be awarded for the loss of the deceased’s love, guidance, companionship, and support, particularly for a surviving spouse or for minor children. In some cases, beneficiaries may also be entitled to compensation for the deceased’s physical pain and suffering prior to death as well as the emotional distress their loss has caused.

The Importance of an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer in Casper, WY

The legal process surrounding a wrongful death claim is especially complicated, and particularly so when you consider that it is coupled with the emotional pain of losing a loved one. An experienced Wyoming wrongful death attorney can provide you with the essential guidance and support you need throughout these challenging times.

A skilled lawyer can thoroughly investigate the incident, gather crucial evidence establishing liability, and identify all potential sources of compensation. They can also help quantify the full extent of your losses, both economic and non-economic, ensuring a fair assessment of your damages. Your attorney will handle all communications and negotiations with defendants and insurance companies, working tirelessly to achieve the best possible settlement or verdict.

Losing a loved one to negligence or wrongdoing is a devastating tragedy. If this has happened to you, know that you’re not alone. Contact us at Ochs Law Firm right away. We understand the immense challenges you face during this difficult time. 

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Our experienced Wyoming personal injury lawyer, Jason E. Ochs will fight to help you recover proper compensation in a class action, pharmaceutical, and medical cases throughout multiple states. Contact us today.

Jason E. Ochs

Jason began his legal career in 2002 with a national multi-district litigation law firm in Newport Beach, California. There he worked on a variety of high-profile, complex-litigation projects including pharmaceutical and medical-device litigation across the country.

The Ochs Law Firm epitomizes professionalism and commitment to all of our clients, regardless of the size of the case or the might of the Defendant. We practice in Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas and California in personal injury litigation, medical malpractice, defective products, class action lawsuits, Qui Tam lawsuits, litigation across multiple districts, bad faith insurance, and civil litigation.

We look forward to providing top quality service and representation for you and your family.