A step-by-step guide to filing a wrongful death claim in Montana
There’s nothing worse than mourning the loss of a loved one. But when that loss is unexpected, it can make it even harder to cope. Oftentimes, losing a family member can come with additional financial burdens as well.
In the wake of the tragic loss of a loved one and mounting financial concerns, many people consider filing a wrongful death claim but don’t know where to start. While it’s often difficult to think about filing a claim on top of mourning a loss, it can help ease the financial burden and provide some peace of mind.
How to file a wrongful death claim in Montana
In Montana, a wrongful death claim is a civil action that a representative of the deceased can bring forth if a loved one dies from a wrongful act.
If you live in Montana, the following is a step-by-step guide that can help you get started with filing a wrongful death claim.
Step 1: Determine the executor of the estate
Only certain people are able to file a wrongful death claim, and this can vary from state to state. In Montana, you must be the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, known as the “executor.” Unlike other states, a family member normally cannot simply file this type of claim on their own. They probably must first be designated as the executor of the estate.
Typically, an executor will be named in the deceased’s will. If there isn’t a will, the spouse is generally determined to be the executor. If there isn’t a spouse, another eligible heir may serve as the executor. In some cases, a judge may appoint one.
If you’re a spouse, a minor child, or the parents of a deceased minor child, you are eligible to recover damages. The executor of the estate serves as a distributor of the award to the appropriate persons.
In some cases, parents can file for an adult child. Significant evidence must prove that there was an extremely close relationship between them. One example of this is when the adult child serves as their parent’s caretaker.
If your loved one didn’t name an executor in their will, contact an experienced wrongful death attorney to help with the process of becoming executor of their estate.
Step 2: Obtain the deceased’s death certificate
Once you know you’re eligible to file a claim, you should obtain a death certificate from the Department of Health. This certificate is an essential piece for filing a wrongful death claim.
Step 3: Consult a wrongful death lawyer
A skilled Montana lawyer will help investigate the variables surrounding the deceased’s passing. They’ll look at the parties who might be responsible and gather evidence to prove negligence in the case. You must be able to prove that negligence was involved in order to receive damages from the responsible party.
Negligence is a breach of duty the defendant owed to the deceased. The defendant might have been negligent if they failed to exercise an appropriate level of care that any other reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
A car accident in which someone is killed because of the actions of a drunk driver is one example where a defendant would likely be found negligent in a wrongful death case. Other common wrongful death lawsuits include bike accidents, pedestrian accidents, work accidents, defective products and medical malpractice.
Step 4: File a lawsuit
Once you’ve gathered your evidence and consulted with your wrongful death lawyer, you can file a claim. You’ll need to submit a notice and a complaint with the help of your attorney.
In Montana, there’s a statute of limitations in wrongful death cases that gives a personal representative 3 years from the date of the deceased’s passing to file a claim. While there are some exceptions to the rule, a Montana court will most likely dismiss your case if it’s not filed within the 3-year deadline.
Step 5: Determine the damages
There’s a list of damages that surviving relatives can receive if they’ve suffered a family loss. Damages are monetary compensation intended to help ease the financial burden of losing someone. These may include:
- Funeral bills
- Medical bills
- Loss of future earnings
- Loss of benefits like health insurance or pension
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Survivorship damages
- Wrongful death damages pa
- Punitive damages (intended to punish a defendant for a particularly malicious or willful act)
All of these factors will be considered when determining the value of your case.
Some damages can be easily determined by calculating the monetary loss incurred. For example, if your loved one was in the hospital after suffering an accident and accumulated medical bills, the court can add these up and compensate you accordingly.
Other damages are harder to calculate, such as the emotional loss that your family suffers. No two cases are alike, but a skilled lawyer can argue your case and help you get maximum compensation for your loss.
Contact a Montana wrongful death attorney
If you’re suffering from the loss of a loved one because of someone’s negligence, you have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim. Having a Montana wrongful death lawyer to manage the process for you will allow you to focus on healing and give you peace of mind.