A Guide to Wrongful Death Laws in Oregon

Losing a loved one is always a devastating experience. When your loved one dies in any accident that could have been avoided, processing their death can be even more emotionally and financially devastating. In Oregon, family members of victims who have been killed due to another person’s negligence and recklessness can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the person or a company who caused their loved one’s death. Wrongful death lawsuits are the most catastrophic of all personal injury claims. If your loved one has died in a wrongful death lawsuit, it is important that you discuss your case with an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

What Does Wrongful Death Mean?

The legal term ‘wrongful death’ means a death that occurred due to another person or entity’s negligent, careless, or intentional act. There are many different types of accidents that are included under the umbrella of wrongful death accidents. Wrongful death lawsuits can be the result of a car accident, negligence in a hospital or nursing home, a slip and fall accident, and more. Anytime one person dies because of another person’s negligence, the accident can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.

 

Making a Wrongful Death Claim in Oregon

Making decisions after a loved one’s death can be a challenging process, especially when you know your loved one’s death could have been prevented. In many cases, an insurance company or defendant may try to ask the victim’s family to sign a settlement agreement with the wrongdoer’s insurance company. They often try to pressure the survivors to accept a settlement amount that is far too low. The first step in protecting yourself is to make sure you do not sign any settlement agreements without discussing your case with an attorney. 

You could be signing away your legal rights and your ability to obtain the full amount of compensation you need and deserve for your loss. You have a legal right to ask an attorney to review the potential settlement documents provided by the insurance company before you sign them. An attorney can carefully review your case and help you understand the value of your claim. Your attorney will also be able to negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement so you obtain a fair amount. In some cases, you will not be able to reach a settlement agreement that is fair for you and your family. Your attorney can help you evaluate whether you would like to pursue your claim in court.

 

Who Makes a Wrongful Death Claim?

The person who makes the legal claim on behalf of the deceased individual is called the “personal representative.” The personal representative is the same person that would represent the deceased individual in his or her probate proceeding. Most of the time, a person’s last will and testament will appoint a personal representative to oversee their estate during the probate process. 

When the deceased has not appointed a personal representative, the probate court has the authority to appoint one. Once a personal representative has been established, he or she can begin pursuing compensation on behalf of the deceased through a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative isn’t bringing a lawsuit to obtain money for himself or herself. Instead, the personal representative is making a legal claim on behalf of the beneficiaries. 

In a wrongful death lawsuit, the beneficiaries are the people who would be entitled to inherit the deceased person’s personal property under Oregon’s “intestate succession” laws. intestate succession laws are the laws that say how a person’s property will be distributed if he or she dies without a will. Typically the spouse and children inherit the bulk of the decedent’s estate under Oregon’s intestate laws. 

 

Who Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against?

The personal representative can make a legal claim against any person or business who caused their loved one’s death. The personal representative can bring a lawsuit against a corporation, an individual, or even a municipality whose negligence resulted in their loved one’s death. When the negligent person who caused another person’s death also died in the accident, the victim’s personal representative can bring a claim against the individual’s estate. In that case, the personal representative would file a claim against the personal representative of the negligent deceased individual’s estate.

 

How to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Oregon

The first step in bringing a wrongful death lawsuit is to ensure that a personal representative has been appointed. In most cases, the personal representative is a professional individual like an attorney or an accountant. The personal representative may be a relative or a friend. Appointing a personal representative involves petitioning the probate court to open the deceased individual’s estate and appoint a personal representative. If you are a beneficiary of the deceased individual, you must be kept informed. Whenever a petition or motion is filed with the probate court, you are entitled to receive a copy of the petition.

Next, the personal representative will need to consult with a wrongful death attorney. In order to successfully recover compensation for the beneficiaries, the personal representative will need to prove that the defendant acted negligently and that the negligence was a significant factor in causing the deceased party’s death. Sometimes, the defendant acted in an intentionally dangerous or reckless manner. In these cases, the personal representative has a right to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. However, most wrongful death lawsuits involved negligence. 

The attorney will begin investigating the facts of the case and gathering evidence showing the defendant or defendant’s wrongdoing. Many wrongful death lawsuits settle out of court. The insurance company or the defendant may offer the personal representative a lump sum. In other cases, the settlement offer is not adequate and the personal representative needs to take the claim to court. If the court decides in the personal representative’s favor, the personal representative will distribute the damages amount to the beneficiaries after the case is closed.

 

Contact a Wrongful Death Attorney in Oregon

Has your loved one died in a preventable accident in Oregon? If so, your family may be entitled to damages through a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact the experienced wrongful-death Attorneys at DuBois Law Group, LLC today to schedule your free initial consultations.