ST. PAUL WRONGFUL DEATH LAWYER
Unfortunately, tragedy can strike at any time. When a loved one is killed because of someone else’s negligence, that person’s next-of-kin have a Minnesota wrongful death claim.
When your family suffers this unimaginable loss, we know that thinking about a lawyer is not the first thing you are thinking about. The problem is that while you are grieving, the insurance companies are spending time investigating the claim, finding witnesses, and trying to build evidence so that they do not have to pay the claim. At Tyroler Injury Law, we have the experience protecting clients from insurance companies so clients can focus on grieving and healing with their families.
WHAT IS A MINNESOTA WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Wrongful death is a legal term that means a person’s death was caused by another person or business. When that happens, the next-of-kin have a claim against the person who caused the death.
WILL INSURANCE COVER A PERSON WHO NEGLIGENTLY KILLS SOMEONE ELSE?
Typically yes, assuming that person has appropriate insurance. If the at-fault person was operating a motor vehicle when they killed someone, that person’s car insurance will have coverage for negligence. If the at-fault person negligently killed someone while doing another activity, like boating, driving an ATV, or letting their dog attack someone, that person’s homeowners or renters insurance would typically cover them.
One major exception to this rule is when the death occurs on the job and is caused by the employer’s or a co-worker’s negligence, there is no Minnesota wrongful death claim. That family of the worker will be entitled to dependency benefits within the Minnesota workers’ compensation system, but employers and co-workers cannot be sued for negligence in that case. In assessing whether there is a case in this scenario, make sure to seek out a Minnesota wrongful death attorney’s opinion. Often in these circumstances, the person who is thought to be a co-employee is really an employee of a different company who may have been working at the same jobsite. In that case, there may be a claim against the other employee and their employer.
WHO CAN BRING A MINNESOTA WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
Under Minnesota’s wrongful death statute, a claim must be brought by a wrongful death trustee. The trustee must be “a suitable and competent person.” To appoint a trustee, a petition must be brought before the court by either the surviving spouse or another next of kin. Typically, the family will hire a St. Paul wrongful death lawyer who will meet with the family and prepare all of the paperwork, including the petition asking the court to appoint the trustee. The attorney then represents the trustee on behalf of the next of kin in bringing the claim against the person who caused the death.
HOW DO I VALUE A MINNESOTA WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
A lot of factors go into valuing a Minnesota wrongful death claim. When valuing the claim, even though the claim is brought by the trustee, the jury is looking at each of the next of kin and their relationship with the person who died. The instructions the jury is given at trial provide the law on what a jury should consider in awarding money for the claim.
- Past financial and non-financial contributions
- Life expectancy at the time of death
- The decedent’s health, age, habits, talents, and success
- Past earnings
- Likely future earning capacity and prospects of bettering themselves
- Personal living expenses
- Legal obligation to support a surviving spouse or next of kin
- Burial expenses and reasonable medical and hospital expenses caused by the injury that led to death
- Counsel, guidance, and aid the decedent would have given the surviving spouse of next of kin
- Advice, comfort, assistance, and protection that the decedent would have given.
The jury then must decide the length of time each next of kin would have had with the decedent by comparing life expectancies and value the claim based on that amount of time.
Importantly, a jury is not allowed to consider the grief or emotional distress suffered by the family. Minnesota is also one of only a handful of states in the country that does not allow for pain and suffering felt by the decedent before death. This can be especially awful and unjust in some cases where the person suffered greatly before passing.
Often the insurance company will undervalue wrongful death cases, especially for children and older people, because they do not provide much financial support and grief is specifically excluded from consideration. While each case is specific to the facts, do not accept this rationale for a bad offer. Insurance companies consistently undervalue the last two categories on the list above, but all the people we love provide counsel, guidance, aid, advice, comfort, and assistance in some form. When you have suffered the unimaginable loss of losing a loved one because of someone else’s negligence, we would urge you to contact an experienced Minnesota wrongful death attorney immediately.
HOW IS MONEY DISTRIBUTED ONCE A SETTLEMENT IS REACHED?
Once a settlement has been reached, the trustee will propose a distribution in a petition to the court. All Minnesota wrongful death settlements and distributions must be approved by a judge.
The easiest way to figure out a fair distribution of the money is if all next of kin agree on the distributions. If everyone agrees, each person will sign a consent and waiver and those documents, and the petition will be filed with the court. No hearing should be required.
If the next of kin does not agree, then the trustee will propose a distribution based on the relationships of each next of kin to the decedent using the factors outlined above. The petition must be will be filed with the court and the court will hold a hearing. The petition must be properly served on each next of kin and notice of the hearing must be given to everyone.
At the hearing, if no one shows up to contest the petition, the judge will sign an order approving the distribution. If someone does show up to contest the distribution proposed in the petition, a hearing will be held and witnesses will testify about the factors outline above and how they relate to each next of kin. The judge will make the final decision how the money will be distributed. Usually only the trustee has an attorney, but each individual next of kin has the right to an attorney.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO BRING A MINNESOTA WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM?
You have three years to bring a Minnesota wrongful death claim. Keep in mind that you cannot run right up against this date without doing anything. To settle the case or start a lawsuit, a trustee must first be appointed. This takes time. In a best-case scenario, it will take at least a week if everything runs perfectly to get a trustee appointed, and that only happens if every next-of-kin consents in writing immediately. To be safe, you should pursue a Minnesota wrongful death claim long before three years or you may miss your chance to bring a claim.
ARE NO-FAULT BENEFITS AVAILABLE IF MY LOVED ONE WAS KILLED IN A MINNESOTA CAR ACCIDENT?
Yes. No-fault benefits are described in more detail here. The statute outline no-fault benefits can be found here. When someone dies in a Minnesota car crash, they are entitled to no-fault benefits. If medical bills were incurred before passing, there will be $20,000 to put towards medical bills.
There is also a separate pool of $20,000 to be put toward funeral expenses, income loss, replacement services, survivors economic loss benefits, and survivors replacement services loss.
Funeral expenses have a maximum benefit of $5,000. This includes cremation expenses.
Income loss benefits pay a maximum benefit of $500 per week (unless you have stacked policies) for the time period before the person’s death. Survivors economic loss pay that same $500 per week after death to surviving dependents. This benefit is not available if there are no surviving dependents.
Replacement services are reasonable expenses incurred for the usual and necessary substitute services that an injured person could not perform. Usually these are services around the house like cooking and cleaning. These are payable both before death if the person is unable to perform them and after death if someone relied on the decedent to perform those services. The maximum weekly amount for these replacement services is $200.
INJURED? CONTACT A ST. PAUL PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY
If you have questions about a St. Paul wrongful death, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at 651-259-1113. You deserve to have compassionate, experienced representation. Please see here why we are the right choice for you.