What is a “wrongful death” case?

A “wrongful death” case arises when a death has been caused by the negligence, recklessness or intentional act of another. Negligence is the minimum legal standard that must be proven before a decedent’s family can recover damages from the negligent or reckless defendant.  Punitive or exemplary damages can be recovered when the defendant acted willfully and wantonly.

For more than 40 years the lawyers at Fitzgerald Law Firm have represented families, who have tragically suffered the loss of a father, mother, daughter or son at the hands of another.  Coping after the death of a loved one who has been killed is one of the most trying time in anyone’s life.  This is especially true when your family member was killed as a result of another party’s negligence, recklessness or unlawful actions.

Justice is healing.  Justice is extract money from the wrongdoer.  The only way to do this is to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.  Bringing a lawsuit against the wrongdoer will afford you and your family the closure and financial compensation you all need.

If you and your family have suffered a wrongful death of a loved one, call the Fitzgerald Law Firm today.  Talk to one of our attorneys.  This call is free.  You will not be charged.

Do not delay.  Evidence and witnesses can disappear. There are also strict time limits in which wrongful death lawsuits can be brought. Once this time has elapsed you will no longer be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

Wyoming’s Wrongful Death Act

Wyoming has specific laws governing wrongful death lawsuits, known as the Wrongful Death Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§  1-38-101 to – 105. These laws govern who can file and recover damages for the death of a relative.  The statutes also set out what kinds of damages can be recovered.  These laws set the time limits for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Wyoming.

A wrongful death claim is a civil lawsuit that attempts to establish the liability of one person or company for the death of another caused by a wrongful act. In order to do so, the claimant must demonstrate that the death was caused by the negligence, or intentional behavior of another person or entity.  The acts that form the basis of wrongful lawsuits include such things like, car accidents, truck accidents, slip and fall accidents, or injuries inflicted by defective products, work place accidents, explosions, medical malpractice and more.

Who can file a wrongful death case in Wyoming?

Under Wyoming law, every wrongful death case “shall be brought by and in the name of the decedent’s wrongful death representative for the exclusive benefit of beneficiaries who have sustained damage.”  Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(a).

In Butler v. Halstead, the Wyoming Supreme Court explained that spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins are the “persons for whose benefit such actions may be brought.”  770 P.2d 698, 700 (Wyo. 1989).

How long do you have to file a wrongful death case in Wyoming?

In general, “An action for wrongful death shall be commenced within two (2) years after the death of the decedent.”  Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(d).  However, there is an exception for wrongful death cases involving medical malpractice when a claim has been filed with the Wyoming Medical Review Panel–“If the decedent’s death involved medical malpractice this limitation period shall be tolled as provided in [the Wyoming Medical Review Panel Act of 2005] upon receipt by the director of the medical review panel of a malpractice claim.”  Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(d).

What damages can be recovered in a wrongful death case in Wyoming?

Under Wyoming law, “The court or jury, as the case may be, may award such damages, pecuniary and exemplary, as shall be deemed fair and just. Every person for whose benefit an action for wrongful death is brought may prove his respective damages, and the court or jury may award such person that amount of damages to which it considers such person entitled, including damages for loss of probable future companionship, society and comfort.”  Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(c).

Damages for wrongful death include both economic damages and non-economic damages.  Economic damages are the amount of money each claimant has not or will not receive from the decedent’s earnings.  Non-economic damages are the loss of probable future companionship, society and comfort.

What happens to the decedent’s debts when there is a verdict or settlement of a wrongful death case?

In Wyoming, “If the decedent left a husband, wife, child, father or mother, no debt of the decedent may be satisfied out of the proceeds of any judgment obtained in any action for wrongful death or out of the proceeds of any settlement of a wrongful death claim.”  Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(b).

Does a judge have to approve a settlement of a wrongful death case?

In certain circumstances, the approval of a judge may be required before a wrongful death case in Wyoming can be settled.  Wyoming law provides that judges can approve settlements of wrongful death cases: “The court appointing the wrongful death representative may approve a settlement of a wrongful death action or a wrongful death claim and resolve disputes relating to the allocation of settlement proceeds.”  Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-38-102(e).

Should I contact an attorney about my loved one’s death?

Here’s the best advice we can give–contact an attorney.  If you wait too long, you may lose the chance to bring any case at all.

The fact that you are reading this page means you have some questions that need to be answered. You might have a case–or you might not–but the only way to find out is the contact an attorney. Our contact form and information can be found here.

What is negligence?

We often hear folks use the term “negligence,” but what does negligence mean in the legal context?

Under Wyoming law, negligence means the failure to use ordinary care.  Ordinary care means the degree of care, which should reasonably expected of the ordinary careful person under the same or similar circumstances.

When is more than ordinary care required?

In the medical field, it is the duty of a physician or specialist who holds himself or herself out as a specialist in a particular field of medical, surgical or other healing science, to meet the standard of care by having the knowledge and skill ordinarily possessed and by using the care and skill ordinarily used by reputable specialists practicing in the same field and under similar circumstances.

A physician or specialist who holds himself or herself out as a specialist in that field and who undertakes diagnosis or treatment in such specialty is required to use the skill and care required of such a specialist.

What are punitive damages?

You may have heard about a case where the jury awarded “punitive damages.”  But what are punitive damages?

Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are allowed in certain cases to punish the defendant and to deter the defendant and others similarly situated from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

A jury may award punitive damages when it finds that the defendant’s conduct was willful and wanton.  Willful and wanton misconduct is the intentional doing of an act, or an intentional failure to do an act, in reckless disregard of the consequences, and under such circumstances and conditions that a reasonable person would know, or have reason to know, that such conduct would, with a high degree of probability, result in harm to another.

What are statutes of limitation?

Strict time limits exist on any potential clim.  If you do wish to take legal action, you must do so within a certain amount of time–known as the statute of limitation.  If you do not take legal action within that time, you will be forever barred from bringing a lawsuit.