What Constitutes Wrongful Death?

Nothing is more painful than the untimely death of a loved one or family member. When it occurs as the result of an accident or due to another’s reckless or negligent behavior, the loss can be even more hard to bear. When these types of situations occur, in addition to the emotional devastation families face, there are often concerns over outstanding medical and hospital bills, as well as financial insecurity over providing for surviving family members with the losses in income. Wrongful death claims can help to compensate victims for these and other costs. While no amount of money can dim the pain of your loved one’s passing, this type of claim can bring a sense of justice, while helping to provide for your family’s future and current needs.

How Oregon Law Defines Wrongful Death

Under Section 30.020 of the Oregon Code of Laws, a wrongful death is one that is caused by the negligent or reckless acts of another, or due to someone failing to take the appropriate precautions that could have prevented the death from occurring,. Those entitled to compensation in these types of cases include surviving parents, spouses, and children, as well as any other family member or friend who would have been entitled to inherit from the person’s estate. These types of proceedings must be initiated within three years of the person’s death, and the types of compensation, referred to as damages, victims’ family members may be entitled to receive include the following:

  • Medical expenses incurred by the victim as the result of their injury;
  • Funeral and burial costs;
  • Lost income and benefits that were incurred between the time of the injury and the victim’s death;
  • Compensation for pain and suffering experienced by the victim as the result of the accident;
  • Wages and benefits the victim would have earned had they survived, which would have contributed to their estate or the care of their loved ones;
  • Compensation for surviving family members for being deprived the society, companionship, and service their loved one would have provided.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, punitive damages may also be awarded, which is a dollar amount meant to punish the at fault party for conduct that was particularly wanton or reckless.

Types of Wrongful Death Cases

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 130,000 people each year die as the result of accidental or unintentional injuries, making them the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. The following are among the most common types of accidents that can result in potentially life threatening and fatal injuries:

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: The CDC reports that over 35,000 people are killed each year on U.S. roads, most commonly as the result of reckless and dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents Deaths: Statistics from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center indicate that roughly 700 bicyclists and more than 4,000 pedestrians each year are killed in accidents, with the number one cause being crashes and collisions with motor vehicles.
  • Deaths Resulting from Premises Liability Accidents: These often occur in public places, such as shopping malls, stores, hotels, and office buildings. The involve slips and falls, being struck by or against an object, being exposed to toxic substances, or being the victim of a fire or smoke related hazard. They often result from owners failing to properly maintain their property, or failing to notify the public of dangerous conditions that exist.
  • Deaths Resulting from Dangerous and Defective Products: Severe injuries and deaths can result from product or parts malfunctions and errors in design, as well as from failing to provide accurate warning labels and instructions for use.   
  • Drowning, Recreation and Sports Related Deaths: The CDC advises that drowning and sports-related accidents are increasingly common, with injuries and deaths resulting from lack of proper safety equipment or instruction and failure to warn participants of potential risks.    

If you have suffered the death of a loved one due to an accident or as the result of someone’s reckless actions, contact our experienced Portland wrongful death attorneys today. At the Johnston Law Firm, we act as a strong legal advocate on your behalf at a time when you need it most, helping you get justice for your loved one and the compensation they would want you to have to ensure your future security.