Possible Beneficiaries in a Wrongful Death Case
The law applicable to wrongful death is more technical. There is just more to understand. But for another thing, it is very difficult to settle a wrongful death case yourself, unless you are willing to accept far less than full value. Most insurance companies would be happy to settle with you before a lawyer gets involved, but it is very unlikely that you would get full value, or even close to it. This is because getting full value usually requires getting a forensic economist to project wage loss, filming a “day in the life” or other type of video to show the insurance company, lining up witnesses and getting their testimony in advance, and other things that usually require a lawyer.
As the value of a case rises, so does the extra money you are likely to get by using a lawyer, even after paying legal fees. Even more importantly, in a wrongful death case, it’s usually not entirely clear who has the authority to bring a case. If you are injured, then it’s your case. But if your father dies, is it your case? Or your siblings’ case? Or your father’s wife’s case? His parents? This takes some sorting out, and until that sorting is done, the case cannot properly be settled.
Injury law has developed slowly, over centuries, by judges making decisions that organically shaped the law, with the legislature chiming in occasionally to change things around the edges. Wrongful death law is completely different, because in the old days, a wrongful death lawsuit was not even allowed. It can be brought now only because the Oregon Legislature decided the family of a person killed through the negligent or intentional act of another should be able to bring a lawsuit, and passed ORS 30.020, which creates the legal right for certain people to bring a lawsuit for a wrongful death. But that law must be followed carefully.