The sudden and unexpected loss of someone you love can be devastating. Children are denied the attention and affection of a parent, spouses adapt to lives without their partners, and families lose a critical source of financial support.
But when that death results from someone else’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence, it leaves the survivors wanting answers and justice.
The wrongful death attorneys at Injury Smart Law will never fully appreciate the depth of your grief, nor can any amount of money replace a lost loved one. But because of our experience representing personal injury victims and families, we can offer you compassion, sensitivity, and the legal representation you need at this difficult time. And we’ll fight to hold accountable the people or companies that took your loved one and caused your pain.
What Is Wrongful Death?
Under Utah law, wrongful death is defined as a death resulting from the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another. Should that happen, the victim’s family is entitled to pursue compensation in a wrongful death action.
Financial compensation can never make up for the devastation and grief of losing a loved one, but it may provide the time and space you need to heal. By recovering monetary damages, the family of a wrongful death victim can cover outstanding medical bills, lost wages, funeral expenses, and the loss of the deceased’s financial support.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Utah?
The law restricts who can file a wrongful death claim and recover compensation for the estate. Utah law specifies that only the deceased person’s heirs or a designated personal representative have the legal right to file a wrongful death claim. The law defines heirs as:
- The surviving spouse.
- Surviving children, including adopted children.
- Surviving parent or parents, including adoptive parents.
- Surviving stepchildren under 18 at the time of the stepparent’s death and financially dependent on the deceased.
If none of the above people exist or survive the decedent, other blood relatives may file the wrongful suit. Also, if the deceased was the subject of a guardianship, the legal guardian is entitled to initiate the wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations in Utah
There is a strict timeline for filing a wrongful death claim in Utah, and failure to file a timely claim will likely result in an outright dismissal of the claim. This window of time, known as the statute of limitations, is two years from the date of death or one year from the date of death if the at-fault party was a government agency.
Who Can Recover Damages in a Utah Wrongful Death Action?
Many relatives and friends feel the loss of a loved one, but not everyone can participate in a settlement or verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit. Utah law provides that only these individuals can recover damages for wrongful death:
- Anyone named in the deceased’s will
Kinds of Wrongful Death Cases
Any negligent or willful act that serves as the basis for a personal injury lawsuit can also be the basis of a wrongful death suit if the victim dies. This includes cases involving:
- Automobile accidents.
- Truck accidents.
- Motorcycle accidents.
- Pedestrian accidents.
- Bicycle accidents.
- Boating accidents.
- Slips and falls.
- Dog bites.
Damages Recoverable in a Wrongful Death Case
If the wrongful death claim is successful, the deceased person’s estate can recover compensation for various economic and non-economic losses.
“Economic damages” are those that can usually be calculated based on bills, pay stubs, or other identifiable expenses, such as:
- Lost wages and loss of future income.
- Medical expenses, including medical and hospital bills.
- Funeral and burial expenses.
- Property damage.
- Out-of-pocket expenses.
Non-economic damages in a wrongful death case are less tangible and can include:
- The deceased person’s physical pain in their final moments.
- The emotional distress suffered by the surviving family members.
- The loss of care, companionship, and other intangible benefits family members enjoyed via their relationship with the deceased person.
Utah law also permits recovery of punitive damages if the decedent’s estate can establish clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s acts or failure to act result from willful and malicious or intentionally fraudulent conduct or a knowing, reckless indifference and disregard of others’ rights.
Punitive damages can only be awarded after compensatory damages are awarded. But there are exceptions, such as when the defendant operates a motor vehicle or motorboat while voluntarily intoxicated or under the influence of any drug, or when the defendant causes the decedent’s death by providing or administering an illegal controlled substance, either directly or in the chain of transfer.
Don’t Think You Can’t Afford an Attorney?
When you hire Injury Smart Law to represent you, you pay no money until we recover compensation for you. This is called a contingency fee arrangement, which means we don’t get paid until you do.
Rather than charging you by the hour, our fees are paid from any settlement or verdict we secure. In most cases, that amount is 33% of the total recovery, although it can be lower or higher. In addition to the percentage, expenses related to court filings, documents and records, and expert witnesses are taken from the settlement or damages award.
Rest assured, we’ll give you a detailed, written summary of the fee arrangement before we begin our representation and an itemized accounting at the end of the case.
Speak With a Utah Wrongful Death Attorney Today
When families come to Injury Smart Law believing the death of a loved one resulted from a reckless, negligent, or intentional act, we understand the pain, anger, and frustration they’re experiencing. We also give them what they need and deserve—compassion, empathy, and our commitment to pursue justice.
You can count on us to listen to your feelings and concerns, answer questions, and help you understand your rights and possible recovery. From our offices in St. George, Salt Lake City, and Ogden, as well as Mesquite, Nevada, we handle many kinds of personal injury and wrongful death claims. Please contact us to schedule a free consultation.