The sudden loss of a family member or loved one is devastating, especially when it is the result of someone else’s actions. If your loved one has died due to the wrongful acts or negligence of another, it’s important to understand the legal grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit in the state of Wyoming.

The Fitzgerald Law Firm, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming, has helped families for over 40 years seek justice after the wrongful death of a loved one. Our experienced team of personal injury attorneys will secure evidence and identify expert witnesses to achieve just compensation for your losses. The Fitzgerald Law Firm holds the record for the largest wrongful death verdict ever upheld on appeal by the Wyoming State Supreme Court. We have the resources and skills to guide you and your family through this difficult process expertly.

Continue reading to understand the legal grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Wyoming, and take the necessary steps toward justice and compensation.

What is Wrongful Death?

According to the Wyoming Wrongful Death Act, a wrongful death has occurred when “the death of a person is caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default” in any situation where the deceased individual would have had grounds for a personal injury lawsuit if death had not occurred. Wrongful deaths can take place under many different circumstances, including, for example:

  • Car wrecks,
  • Medical malpractice,
  • Workplace incidents,
  • Defective products

If death resulted from negligence, recklessness, or willful behavior, a wrongful death lawsuit may be filed on behalf of survivors of the deceased individual. These lawsuits are civil cases. Wrongful death suits may only impose monetary damages and cannot convict the defendant of a crime or impose jail time.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

Each state has unique laws governing wrongful death claims. Wyoming law states that only a “wrongful death representative” may file such a claim. The person who wishes to act as the wrongful death representative, typically a relative or other beneficiary, must file a petition with the court in the county where:

  • The deceased person lived,
  • The deceased person died,
  • One or more of the defendants lives or can be summoned,
  • Or, the event that caused death took place.

Wyoming law doesn’t provide specific limitations as to who may serve as a wrongful death representative. Once the petition has been filed, the court will decide who “will best represent the interests of the potential beneficiaries of the action as a whole.” These considerations underscore the importance of selecting a wrongful death attorney with the experience to navigate Wyoming’s Wrongful Death Act, in addition to the general complexities of a wrongful death lawsuit.

What Damages May be Recovered for Wrongful Death?

Damages awarded in a successful wrongful death case primarily consist of non-economic damages. These damages are intended to compensate survivors financially for factors such as:

  • Loss of past and future earnings,
  • Funeral expenses,
  • Loss of care, comfort, and society,
  • And, emotional distress.

In addition, a judge or jury in some wrongful death cases may decide to award exemplary damages, also known as punitive damages, to make an example of the defendant for misconduct. Courts may grant exemplary or punitive damages against an individual or corporation that has shown a willful disregard for public safety. In these cases, punitive damages are awarded in addition to other damages.

Determining Fault in a Wrongful Death Case

When assigning damages, the state of Wyoming uses a form of comparative fault. Under this rule, the court first determines what percentage of fault for the incident that caused death lies with the defendant as compared to the deceased individual. If the deceased individual is found to be more than 50% at fault, the beneficiaries will not receive compensation. If the deceased individual is found to be partially at fault, but at a percentage less than 50%, the court will reduce the amount of recoverable damages proportionally.

In a wrongful death case, the plaintiff is responsible for proving that the defendant is at fault. As a result, it is vital to secure an attorney with the resources and trial experience to establish the circumstances behind your loved one’s death.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims?

Wyoming law places time limits on when a wrongful death claim may be filed, called a statute of limitations, and when a Wrongful Death Representative may be appropriate. According to these laws, any action for wrongful death or a petition for appointment of a Wrongful Death Representative must be initiated within two years of the person’s death. These added complexities make it especially important to speak with an experienced wrongful death attorney who understands these laws as soon as possible.

Speak to Our Experienced Wrongful Death Attorneys

Wrongful death lawsuits are among the most complex claims. If you have questions about your loved one’s death and how to initiate a claim, we’re here to help. With decades of experience behind us, The Fitzgerald Law Firm will work diligently to help your family pursue justice and receive complete compensation.

If you’ve lost a loved one to negligence, reach out to our wrongful death attorneys today.