Who is Immune to a Wrongful Death Claim?
Understanding Immunity in Wrongful Death Claims
As a personal injury lawyer, in Cleveland, Ohio, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of losing a loved one due to someone else’s negligence. In these difficult times, it is important to know your legal rights and the obstacles you may face in pursuit of a wrongful death claim. Government immunity is one of the most complex and controversial issues loved ones face when seeking economic damages. In this page, I will explain who may be immune in wrongful death cases, how it affects a wrongful death lawsuit, and what you can do to overcome it.
What is Government Wrongful Death Immunity?
A government entity may have sovereign immunity, which is a legal doctrine that shields the government and government agencies from liability for certain actions or omissions. The rationale behind this doctrine is that the federal government, as well as state or local government should be free to carry out its duties without fear of being sued (personal injury claims, wrongful death lawsuits) and distracted from its public functions. However, this immunity is not absolute, and may be waived or limited depending on how the wrongful death occurred.
How Does This Immunity Affect Wrongful Death Claims?
Government Immunity and Vicarious Liability
In the context of wrongful death claims, government agencies may have immunity come into play in several ways. For example, if the death was caused by a government employee acting within the scope of their official duties, the government entity may claim immunity under the doctrine of vicarious liability. If the government is found immune, it would not be liable for the employee’s negligence, but the employee could still be sued individually for economic damages.
Vicarious liability is a legal principle that holds a person or entity responsible for the actions of another person. This can apply to a variety of situations, but is most commonly associated with employer-employee relationships. Under vicarious liability, an employer can be held liable for the actions of their employees if those actions were committed within the scope of their employment. This means that if an employee causes harm, damages, or even death, while performing their job duties, the employer can be held responsible for those actions. Other examples of vicarious liability include parents being held responsible for the actions of their children, and car owners being held responsible for the actions of anyone they lend their car to.
In a wrongful death case, vicarious liability can be used to reach deeper pockets to satisfy the damages of the surviving family. Vicarious liability sometimes allows for an employer to be held responsible for the wrongful actions of their employees. Employers often defend against vicarious liability claims, and there are certain immunities that may protect them from liability. One such immunity is employer indemnity, which allows the employer to seek reimbursement from the employee for any damages that the employer may be forced to pay as a result of the employee’s actions.
Government Immunity, Premises Liability and Sovereign immunity
Another scenario in which government immunity may apply in a wrongful death case, is when the death was caused by a dangerous condition on public property, such as a defective highway design or a hazardous public facility. In such cases, the government may claim immunity under the doctrine of premises liability. This means that the government would not be liable for the condition itself.
The government can exercise sovereign immunity, which is based on the idea that the government, as the ultimate authority and should be free to exercise its powers without fear of being sued by individuals. This could be waived, if it had an actual or constructive written notice of the condition and failed to properly maintain it in a reasonable amount of time. The surviving family may receive punitive damages for the lack of action.
Many states, including Ohio, have laws that limit liability for premises defects in cases involving premises liability claims against a state or municipal government entity. This is done by establishing a relatively low standard of care owed to those on government property.
It is important to note that the specifics of government immunity and its impact on premises liability in wrongful death cases in Ohio, may depend on a variety of factors, including the nature of the property in question and the actions of both the government entity and the individual involved. It is recommended to consult with me or another qualified attorney to understand how government immunity may apply to a particular case.
How Can You Overcome Immunity in Wrongful Death Claims?
To waive sovereign immunity in wrongful death claims requires a thorough understanding of the relevant laws, regulations, and case precedents. It also requires skillful negotiation, litigation, and advocacy. I know Ohio law, and here are some general strategies I use to overcome government immunity:
Conduct a thorough wrongful death investigation
In order to build a strong case, I conduct a comprehensive investigation of the facts surrounding the death of your loved one, including any relevant documents, witnesses, experts, and physical evidence. I will also review the applicable laws and regulations to identify any potential waivers or exceptions to government immunity. No stone will be left unturned; I’ll find out what happened, and I’ll Make Them Pay!®
File a timely notice of claim
In many states, you must file a notice of claim with the government agency or entity responsible for the death of the government employee within a certain period of time, usually within 180 days or less. This notice must contain specific information, such as the names of the parties, the date and location of the incident, and the amount of damages in the wrongful death suit. Per wrongful death laws, failure to file a timely notice may result in the dismissal of your claim.
Negotiate a wrongful death settlement
In some cases, the government entities may be willing to settle a wrongful death claim without admitting liability or waiving immunity. This requires skillful negotiation and advocacy to obtain a fair and just settlement for the surviving family members. I have a proven track record of achieving favorable settlements for my clients and punitive damages for their emotional pain, even in the face of federal government entities.
Litigate in court
If negotiations fail, I am prepared to litigate your case in court, including filing a lawsuit and presenting evidence and arguments before a judge and jury. I have extensive experience in all aspects of civil litigation, from pleadings and motions, to discovery and trial. I will work tirelessly to secure the compensation surviving family members believe they deserve.
Losing a loved one is tragic and traumatic, especially when the death of your loved one was caused by someone else’s negligence. Pursuing a wrongful death claim can be challenging, particularly when government immunity is involved. I have fought large corporations and government entities for more than forty years. You want answers and justice, and so do I. Nothing will stop me from uncovering the truth regarding the circumstances of your loved one’s death. Call me now, and I will meet with your family any time and any place to discuss your wrongful death claim, and I’ll Make Them Pay!®